On Wednesday the Council adopted an amendment of Directive 95/2/EC. As well as striking at unfair competition the changes mean that the use of one new food additive as well as new uses of already authorised food additives will be allowed, while a number of other additives will be withdrawn since they are no longer widely used.
The revised Directive will enter into force 20 days after its publication in the Official Journal of the EU. After, at latest 18 months, Member States must ensure that all new food products placed on the market comply with the Directive.
"Food additives are an important part of food production since they can preserve nutritional quality, prolong durability and improve the taste and texture of food. Since we are mindful of ensuring food safety, their authorisation for use is always subject to a scientific safety evaluation," said David Byrne, the Commissioner responsible for Health and Consumer Protection.
"I am also pleased that we are now harmonising the legislation for additives in flavourings, as this will ensure the same level of consumer protection in all Member States and fair competition between producers," he added.
The use of food additives is harmonised, which means that it is legislated at EU-level rather than 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 European Food Safety Authority. 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, said the Commission this week.
The current legislation is now adapted in the light of recent technical and scientific developments, by allowing the use of one new food additive (hydrogenated poly-1-decene1) - a colourless, odourless and tasteless inert product used as a glazing agent in confectionery and dried fruit.
Food additives are also used in flavourings, for example to preserve flavour. The lack of harmonisation at 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.
The present Directive harmonises EU legislation on additives necessary for the storage and use of flavourings. This will ensure the functioning of the internal market, writes the Commission, and a high level of protection of human health and the protection of consumer interests.
The Commission presented its proposal for this regulation in November 2002. In July 2003, the European Parliament adopted amendments which were agreed by both the Council and the Commission.