Law revision lowers permitted nitrite, nitrate levels

By staff reporter

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Food additives, Nitrite

Revisions to the EU's food additives and sweeteners legislation
includes stricter requirements on the use of nitrites and nitrates
in meat, and approvals for seven new ingredients.

The proposals were passed by health ministers during a meeting Friday at the European Council, the bloc's highest decision making body. The revisions include stricter requirements on the use of nitrites and nitrates in meat. The reduction to the allowable nitrate and nitrate levels in meats is in line with a Court of Justice ruling and a European Food Safety Authority opinion on the additives. The EU's health ministers also voted to allow processors to use of seven new food additives and extends the permitted uses of certain other additives. "These changes to the current legislation for food additives and sweeteners will ensure the better functioning of the internal market, and maintain a high level of food safety and consumer protection," stated Markos Kyprianou, the EU Commissioner for Health and Consumer Protection. The level of nitrosamines, which are formed from nitrates and nitrites, will be kept as low as possible by lowering the levels of that can be added to food. Specific provisions have been made for some traditional meat products, which rely on specific technological processes and would disappear from the market if forced to comply with the general provisions, Kyprianou stated Such traditional products would be required to describe the production process on the label so consumers can easily recognise them. The amended legislation authorises seven new additives : Erythritol, soybean hemicellulose, ethyl cellulose, hexylresorcinol, tertiary butyl hydroquinone (TBHQ), pullulan, and starch aluminium octenyl succinate. Each of the additives underwent a safety evaluation by the Scientific Committee on Food or its successor regulator, the European Food Safety Authority, prior to the Commission proposing their authorisation. The authorisations of several other additives have also been extended to allow them a wider range of use in foods. Sodium hydrogen carbonate has been authorised for use in sour milk cheese, sorbates and benzoates in crustaceans; silicon dioxide as a carrier and other additives in traditional products. The amended legislation also formalises the ban on the use of certain gelling agents in jelly mini cups which have been identified as a choking risk. An earlier Commission Decision was used to ban this use as a temporary measure until the ban could be formalised through the amendment. Nitrite as an additive retards rancidity, stabilises flavour, and establishes the characteristic pink colour of cured meat. The legislation defines food additives as substances added intentionally to foodstuffs to perform certain technological functions, for example to colour, to sweeten or to preserve. Food additives are defined in Community legislation as "any substance not normally consumed as a food in itself and not normally used as a characteristic ingredient of food whether or not it has nutritive value, the intentional addition of which to food for a technological purpose results in it or its by-products becoming directly or indirectly a component of such foods".

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