The aim of the proposals is to clarify and update the existing legislation on food additives and flavourings and introduce new EU-wide rules on food enzymes based on scientific opinions from the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA).
For its part, the FSA (Food Standards Agency) is seeking stakeholders views on a number of issues associated with these proposed changes. FSA offices in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland will be carrying out similar consultations.
In particular, the FSA is seeking feedback on partial regulatory impact assessments (RIAs) for the proposed regulations, along with assessments of their likely impact in terms of costs and benefits.
The FSA said that no RIA has been produced in respect of the proposed regulation on common procedures, since this is considered to be cost-neutral.
The agency wants to know whether the RIAs accurately reflect the cost implications for businesses affected by the proposed regulations, and whether there other implications for consumers, enforcement officers and businesses, which should be taken into account.
It also wants to know whether there is any other information stakeholders can provide that would better illustrate the effects of these proposals on consumers, enforcement officers and businesses.
The RIAs already include preliminary assessments of the impact of the proposals on small businesses. The FSA said that it would particularly welcome any comments from small firms, or trade bodies that represent small firms, as to any further likely cost implications arising from the proposals, such as the impact of any additional set up costs, and any additional administrative costs.
The European Commission published the proposals for European Parliament and Council Regulations on 28 July 2006.
EU-wide rules would be laid down for the evaluation, approval and control of enzymes used in food. Currently, food enzymes used during the processing of foods, but not active in the final product (processing aids) are not covered by EU legislation, and in the UK are regulated under General Food Law.
The draft regulation would allow for the establishment of a positive list of all food enzymes used in food for a technological purpose, based on favourable scientific opinions from EFSA. The proposal also includes requirements for the labelling of food enzymes other than those used as processing aids.
The new legislation aims to simplify and streamline the food additive approval system laid down in Directive 89/107/EEC. The three current Directives covering sweeteners, colours and 'miscellaneous additives' will be repealed and incorporated into the new Regulation.
The approval of new additives, and all changes to the existing legislation, is currently required to be made under the co-decision procedure, involving approval by the Council and European Parliament, which is time consuming.
Under the new proposal, changes to the legislation will be able to be made by comitology. This allows the Commission to update and add to the EU positive list of food additives, following Member State approval at Standing Committee and a right of scrutiny by the European Parliament.
All approvals will be based on a safety evaluation carried out by EFSA. The proposal also sets out a re-evaluation system for all additives currently on the EU market, based on risk assessments from EFSA, and envisages a review of the technological aspects of all current food additive authorisations.
It also includes new harmonised EU provisions for additives used in other additives.
The new legislation aims to update the general rules set out in Directive 88/388/EEC to reflect technological and scientific developments. The proposed Regulation sets out clearer rules on maximum levels for undesirable substances in line with EFSA opinions. Definitions are clarified, and stricter conditions are also introduced for the use of the term 'natural'.
The proposed Regulation introducing a single common procedure for the approval of additives, flavourings and enzymes includes a safety evaluation by EFSA. The benefits of this common approach include simplified legislation and more consistency in the approval procedures.
All comments and views should be sent to: Clifford Gedling Novel Foods, Additives and Supplements Division Food Standards Agency Room 515c Aviation House 125 Kingsway London WC2B 6NH Tel: 020 7276 8570 Fax: 020 7276 8514 E-mail: email@example.com
Council working group discussions on the proposals are planned to commence under the Finnish Presidency in Brussels on 20 September.
The FSA said that responses before this date would be particularly welcome, as they will help to inform the UK negotiating line during discussions. However, full account will be taken of all responses received before the consultation deadline of 27 November.