New purity criteria for food additives open for consultation

By Guy Montague-Jones

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Food additives, European union, Food additive

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) is calling on food additive manufacturers and enforcement authorities to comment on an EU directive laying down new purity criteria.

The consultation is being launched to discuss the implementation into English law of directive 2009/10/EC, which contains specific purity criteria on food additives other than colours and sweeteners.

Financial impact

The FSA said it does not expect that any of the amendments to carry financial implications for the food companies but is seeking industry feedback to confirm this. The deadline for responses is 15 October 2009.

The amendment to directive2008/84/EC was adopted at Standing Committee in December, and is published on the Commission’s website. It will be implemented into national legislation of member states by 15 February 2010.

Amendments include compositional criteria for a number of additives. Several of these have been introduced with the goal of reducing levels of formaldehyde and lead in foods.

Reducing lead levels

Regarding the high natural presence of lead in some EU member states, the specifications for E 526 calcium hydroxide and E 529 calcium oxide were amended.

However, it was not deemed possible to align the maximum level of lead to the limit set by the Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA). The level of lead was therefore fixed at the lowest achievable threshold, said the FSA.

The adopted text includes the following amendments:

  • Maximum levels of 50mg/kg for residual formaldehyde have been introduced in the specifications for the alginates (E 400-405). In the specifications for carageenan (E 407) and Processed Euchema Seaweed (E 407a), a level of 5mg/kg has been set for the adventitious presence of formaldehyde.
  • Regarding E 526 calcium hydroxide and E 529 calcium oxide, FSA said the level of lead has been fixed at the lowest achievable threshold. FSA added that the levels of magnesium and alkali salts for these additives have adjusted to the lowest achievable values which remain lower or equal to those set by JECFA
  • In line with opinion of JECFA, the specification for E 901 beeswax has been amended to lower the maximum permitted level of lead.
  • EU wide specifications for E504(i) magnesium carbonate have been adopted.
  • E 230 biphenyl and E 233 thiabendazole – the specifications for these food additives have been deleted from the Directive, as they are no longer used in foodstuffs.

The following amendments have also been made to take account of recent opinions from the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA):

  • The specification for E 234 nisin has been amended to permit a modified production process using a sugar-based medium.
  • The specification for E 412 guar gum has been amended to permit partially depolymerised guar gum to be used as a food additive.
  • The specification for E 905 microcrystalline wax has been amended in order to cover waxes derived from synthetic hydrocarbon feedstocks.

To read the full FSA consultation document click here​.

Related topics: Policy

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