Food additives come under EU scrutiny

Around 300 sweeteners, colourings and flavour enhancers already in use in food products are set for health and safety re-evaluation if Parliament follows the advice of its Environment Committee in a vote scheduled for June or July.

New EU authorisation procedures on food additives are to be adopted this year after MEPs supported Commission proposals on 10 April 2007.

A first EU regulation will tighten approval rules on anything from sweeteners, colours, preservatives, antioxidants, emulsifiers, gelling agents and packaging gases. It will replace a dozen or so existing laws.

Voting almost unanimously (54 votes to 1), the Environment Committee backed requirements that additives must meet three conditions to be authorised: They must not endanger the health of consumers, be “technologically necessary” in terms of benefits to the consumer and they must not mislead the consumer.

For those already on the market – around 300 -, a gradual re-evaluation programme is to be adopted within one year following adoption of a second regulation. Those failing to enter the authorised list will be automatically banned.

For sweeteners and colourings, MEPs said they should only be used “if the desired effect cannot be achieved by using spices”.

The requirements will be assessed by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) which has its seat in Parma, Italy.

Two other related regulations, on enzymes and flavourings, are to be voted on by the Environment Committee on 8 May. A plenary vote on all proposals is to take place in June or July.

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