The European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled earlier this week that the legal base for regulation (EC) 2065/2003 on smoke flavourings was valid.
The judgement relates to a case for annulment brought by the UK, which did not object to the substance of the measures laid down in the legislation, but to the use of Article 95 (internal market) of the EU Treaty as the legal basis.
However the ECJ ruled against the UK's challenge, finding that the legal base was appropriate to the objectives of the regulation i.e. to harmonise the diverse national laws on the approval and use of smoke flavourings.
Smoke flavourings are used to impart a smoky flavour to foods such as meat, fish or snacks. They are produced by condensing fresh smoke in water, after which the condensed smoke is purified.
Because of the purification process, the use of smoke flavourings is generally considered to be less of a health concern than the traditional smoking process.
But in 2003, it was felt that regulation was necessary in order to harmonise diverse legislation that existed within Member States. This ranged from very strict authorisation procedures, to virtually no restrictions at all.
The European Parliament and the Council therefore adopted regulation 2065/2003 in order to establish Community procedures for the safety assessment and the authorisation of smoke flavourings intended for use in foods.
The regulation lays down an EU-wide system for the safety assessment and authorisation of smoke condensates used to flavour food. Smoke flavour manufacturers must only use authorised flavourings, and must not use treated wood in the smoking process, unless appropriate certification is achieved.
To apply for an authorisation of a smoke condensate, producers must provide detailed information on the production method as well as the further steps in the production of derived smoke flavourings. Furthermore, information will have to be provided on the intended uses in specific food or food categories.
The legislation aims to ensure a high level of food safety when it comes to smoke flavourings and to remove potential barriers to the internal market that existed when each Member State had its own divergent rules on these flavourings.