Naturex was first to raise the alarm, alleging on 19 May that some companies are offering deodorised antioxidant rosemary extracts and telling food companies that they can be labelled as natural flavourings.
“We think it is disrespectful and dangerous to try to fool both the industry and consumers with the same old tricks that led Europe to consider banning rosemary extracts in the mid 90s,” Baptiste Demur, business manager at Naturex told FoodNavigator.com.
“Additive free” incentive
The incentive for declaring antioxidant rosemary extracts as natural flavourings is that the food manufacturer can then label its products as being “additive free.”
But according to Naturex, new EU regulations (Directive 2010/67/EU and 2010/69/EU), which came into force in April, explicitly outlaw the practice.
The French ingredients supplier said deodorised rosemary extracts containing carnosic acid and carnosol, the reference antioxidant compounds under the legislation, are food antioxidants and must be labelled as such.
According to the company, food manufacturers using such deodorised extracts may make natural claims and label products in a consumer-friendly way such as “antioxidant: extract of rosemary” but they cannot claim that these ingredients are flavourings.
Other rosemary extract suppliers contacted by FoodNavigator.com agreed with Naturex that some producers are not complying with the new EU legislation.
“We are aware that there are several producers from the US, China and India that are not producing to allowed methods,” said Ohad Cohen, CEO of Vitiva, a Slovenia-based supplier. “They are misleading EU customers to use their rosemary extracts as an antioxidant but under natural flavour declaration.”
Cohen added that Vitiva has contacted the EU Commission about the matter and is awaiting a written response.
And using a flavour as a flavour?
Meanwhile, Kalsec, a Texas-based supplier, said it supported the concerns raised by “responsible rosemary producers” but alleged that there is another way that some suppliers are offering misleading advice about the new legislation.
“This inaccurate advice has also included informing users of rosemary extracts, which still qualify as flavourings, that they can no longer use the ingredients in this manner,” said Paul Filby, managing director of Kalsec Europe. “There is no intention in the new legislation to remove rosemary as a flavouring material from the European diet.”
Filby added that the legislation is designed to allow precisely defined deodorised rosemary extracts to be labelled as antioxidants.