At present, food additives are regulated by about a dozen EU laws, some of which date back several years. There is a general consensus that the legislative framework needs to be simplified, and the EC has put forward proposed legislation to this end. In two votes that took place yesterday, the Committee overwhelmingly approved amendments put forward in two documents by rapporteur Asa Westlund (PES, SE). If the Parliament also approves them in the vote in plenary scheduled for June or July, the food industry may benefit from a more transparent authorisation procedure than that put forward by the Commission. The Commission proposal envisages the introduction of four new rules: one setting out a common authorisation procedure for additives, enzymes and flavourings and the other three dealing with each of the categories individually, within which lists of authorised products will be compiled and their conditions of use and labelling rules laid out. In the first of her reports - unanimously approved by the committee - Westlund said that any decisions on authorisation taken and the reasons for them should be made public. If this were to result in harm to a producer's competitive advantage, she said that producer should be given protection on their scientific data for a period of five years. The committee said that the authorisation procedure is "a key condition not only for ensuring consumer trust but also for giving what [Westlund] regards as the benefits of transparency." Moreover, the voting MEPs rejected the Commission's suggestion that it conduct regular updating of the lists itself, in consultation with the standing committee on the food chain, on the grounds that the co-decision procedure would be too cumbersome. Rather, it re-instated the principle of co-decision. Westlund's second report, approved by the committee by 54 votes to one, concerns the specific regulation on additives, which states that they must not endanger the health of consumers or vulnerable groups, be technologically necessary in terms of consumer benefit, and must not mislead the consumer. In their amendments, the committee added the condition that they not be harmful to the environment. In the conditions for sweeteners and colourings, the MEPs agreed that flavour enhancers should only be used if the same effect cannot be achieved using spices. In the technical information that would be included in the list of authorised additives, the MEPs want separate limit values for nanotechnologies, and for labels to state whether an additive has been produced using GMOs. The planned new regulation also encompasses re-evaluation of some 300 sweeteners, colourings and flavour enhancers that are already on the market, with a programme to be drawn up a year after it comes into force. The re-evaluation will take into account the latest safety data. Previously approved additives may continue to be used in the meantime, but any additive not on the list after the evaluation is completed will be banned.