The banned substances are:
- mint flavour 2,6,6-trimethyl-1-cyclohexen-1-carboxaldehyde (EU flavis number 05 121)
- woody pine flavour myrtenyl formate (FL number 09 272)
- myrtenyl-2-methylbutyrate (FL number 09 899)
- myrtenyl-3-methylbutyrate (FL number 09 900).
The flavours are considered to be chemically similar to perilla aldehyde, a citrus flavour from the alicyclic aldehyde subgroup which was found to cause DNA damage to the liver by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) in a scientific opinion last year.
The Parma-based authority found a statistically significant increase in breaks to DNA strands in the liver at a dose of 700 mg per kilo body weight per day, considered to be perilla aldehyde's maximum tolerated dose.
While the panel did note some weaknesses in the control data, it nonetheless concluded that perilla aldehyde was genotoxic, and that there was "a potential safety concern" for nine other flavourings in its sub-category.
The regulation comes into force next Friday (13 May) twenty days after publication in the Official Journal of the European Union.
A spokesperson from the European Flavour Association (EFFA) told FoodNavigator the flavours in question had already been effectively phased out by industry.
This was not due to safety concerns but for commercial reasons, it said, and therefore reformulation – which can vary in its complexity depending on the food matrix, sensorial profile and flavouring in question – may not be necessary.
“Following its opinion on perilla, EFSA stated that ‘there is also a potential safety concern for these other substances unless further evidence proves otherwise’,” the EFFA spokesperson said.
"Industry informed the European Commission that they would not engage in additional testing in order to prove otherwise due to the fact that currently these substances were no longer used in Europe. Therefore the Commission decided to delete them from the Union List."
According to the regulation, foods containing the flavourings that were placed on the market before the regulation came into force may be marketed and sold until their minimum durability or use-by date.
EFFA added that the flavours, including perilla aldehyde, are considered to be safe in other parts of the world, and that perilla aldehyde has been introduced on the priority list for review by the Joint Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA) of the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and World Health Organisation (WHO).
The remaining substances of potential concern are p-mentha-1,8-dien-7-ol (FL number: 02 060), myrtenol (FL number: 02 091), myrtenal (FL number: 05 106), p-mentha-1,8-dien-7-yl acetate (FL number: 09 278) and myrtenyl acetate (FL number: 09 302).
Around 2800 flavouring substances have appeared on the EU market.
The Union List of approved flavours can be found here.