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Brussels, 18th July 2002

Food: Commission proposes EU-wide safety assessment and authorisation of smoke flavourings

The European Commission has acted to safeguard public health by proposing new procedures for the safety assessment and authorisation of 'smoke' flavourings. A smoky flavour is attributed to a lot of products, from smoked ham to smoked salmon. Smoke flavourings are often used instead of fresh smoke to impart a smokyflavour to foods such as meat, fish or snacks. The chemical composition of smoke is complex and smoked foods in general give rise to health concerns. Smoke flavourings are produced by condensing fresh smoke in water. The condensed smoke is then fractionated and purified during the production of smoke flavourings. Because of this purification process, the use of smoke flavourings is generally considered to be of less health concern than the traditional smoking process.

A wide range of different smoke flavourings is produced from smoke condensates. The Scientific Committee on Food, an independent committee that advises the Commission on questions concerning consumer health and food safety, has concluded that the existing multitude of smoke flavourings are based on only a limited number of commercially available smoke condensates and that, therefore, the toxicological evaluation should focus on these condensates rather than on the multitude of derived smoke flavourings.

Based on this advice, the Commission has proposed to establish a procedure for the safety assessment and authorisation of smoke condensates. For an application for authorisation of a smoke condensate, the producer will need to provide detailed information on the production method as well as on the further steps in the production of derived smoke flavourings, the intended uses in or on specific food or food categories, chemical specifications, toxicological studies and validated methods for sampling and detection. The evaluation will be carried out by the European Food Safety Authority according to a transparent procedure within a specific timeframe. The Commission will make a decision on each application based on the outcome of the evaluation.

The Commission proposes to restrict the authorisations to a period of ten years after which the authorisations will need to be renewed. This provision would ensure that products were regularly re-evaluated according to the latest scientific and technical knowledge.

The Commission's proposal for a regulation on smoke flavourings used or intended for use in or on foods will be submitted to the European Parliament and the Council for adoption under the so-called co-decision procedure.

Further information is available on the flavourings web site of the Commission's Health and Consumer Protection Directorate General:

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