In the same week that the agriculture Council cleared the way for tougher GM legislation in Europe, the European Commission has announced a new proposal that seeks to harmonise the use of food additives in flavourings in order to reduce unfair competition at an EU level.
The proposal will amend Directive 95/2, dealing with food additives other than colours and sweeteners. In addition, the amendment proposes the harmonisation within the Union of the use of food additives in flavourings in order to reduce unfair competition. At the same time, the use of one new food additive - a glazing agent - will be allowed as well as new uses of already authorised food additives.
"Food additives are useful in a number of ways - they can preserve nutritional quality, prolong durability and improve the taste and texture of food. Their authorisation for use is subject to a scientific safety evaluation and it is according to such evaluations that we can propose new uses," said Commissioner David Byrne, responsible for Health and Consumer Protection. "In addition, our proposal for the harmonisation of legislation for additives in flavourings is an important step to ensure the same levels of consumer protection in all member states and fair competition in such flavourings."
The use of food additives is harmonised, which means that it is legislated at an EU-level rather than a national level and only substances that are explicitly authorised may be used. Prior to their authorisation, food additives undergo an extensive safety evaluation by the Scientific Committee on Food, the independent scientific body that advises the Commission in matters related to food safety.
In addition to safety, additives are examined in terms of whether or not they are needed and whether or not their use might mislead the consumer. The Commission now proposes to adapt the current legislation in the light of recent technical and scientific developments, proposing to allow the use of one new food additive (hydrogenated poly-1-decene), to withdraw a few previously authorised additives and to permit new uses of some already authorised food additives.
Hydrogenated poly-1-decene is a colourless, odourless and tasteless inert product. It is proposed for use as a glazing agent in confectionery and dried fruit to provide a protective coating.
Food additives are also used in flavourings, for example to preserve flavour. The Commission claims that the lack of harmonisation at the EU level has meant that the use of additives in flavourings varies between the Member States, hindering the free movement of flavourings and foodstuffs containing these flavourings, creating conditions of unfair competition as well as potential differences in consumer protection. For this reason the present proposal also aims to harmonise EU legislation on additives necessary for the storage and use of flavourings. This, the Commission hopes, will ensure the functioning of the internal market, a high level of protection of human health and the protection of consumer interests.
The next step? The proposal will head to the Council and to the European Parliament for adoption under the co-decision procedure.