Brussels, 28 July 2006
The European Commission has adopted a package of legislative proposals which would introduce harmonised EU legislation on food enzymes for the first time and upgrade current rules for flavourings and additives. The texts aim to clarify and update current legislation in this area and to create a simplified common approval procedure for food additives, flavourings and enzymes, based on scientific opinions from the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). For additives and flavourings, which are already covered by EU legislation, the proposals bring the rules into line with the latest scientific and technological developments and will improve the clarity of the legislation. With regard to food enzymes, the draft Regulation proposes replacing divergent national legislation with new, harmonised EU rules.
Markos Kyprianou, Commissioner for Health and Consumer Protection, said: “Food additives, flavourings and enzymes play an important role in the production of food for today’s mass market and can offer benefits to the consumer in terms of keeping food fresh and tasty. Clear, harmonised rules on the safety approval and marketing of these substances serve to protect the consumer and boost public confidence in the food produced with them. Today’s proposal ensures that these rules are based on sound scientific advice and that consumers are afforded the same level of safety, wherever they are in the EU. “
Enzymes play an increasingly important role in food production, and can be used as alternatives to chemicals in improving the texture, appearance, nutritional value and flavour of food, as well as helping in certain food production processes (e.g. helping bread to rise). Currently food enzymes used as processing aids are not covered by EU legislation. Member States’ legislation on food enzymes differs significantly, which can lead to problems for the internal market and an unclear situation for the EU consumer.
Under the new legislation proposed today, harmonised EU rules would be laid down for the evaluation, approval and control of enzymes used in food. The draft Regulation foresees the establishment of a positive list of all food enzymes used in food for a technological purpose, based on favourable scientific opinions from EFSA. Once the rules on the content and the validity of the applications are established by the Commission after having consulted the EFSA, a period of 24 months will be provided for the submission of applications for existing enzymes. These applications will then be forwarded to EFSA for evaluation, following which the Commission will draw up the initial positive list. The proposal also includes requirements for the labelling of food enzymes other than those used as processing aids. Food enzymes with a technological function in the final food will have to be labelled as ingredients with their function (e.g. stabiliser) and name.
Rules on food additives and their approval are laid down in Directive 89/107/EEC. However, the procedure for the approval of food additives currently requires co-decision (i.e. approval from both Council and Parliament of a proposal from the Commission), which can take some time to complete. The new legislation proposed today aims to simplify and streamline the food additive approval system, allowing the Commission to update and add to the EU positive list of food additives, following Member State approval in the Standing Committee on the Food Chain and a right of scrutiny for the European Parliament. All approvals will be based on a safety evaluation carried out by EFSA. The proposal also sets out a re-evaluation system for food additives currently on the EU market, based on risk assessments by EFSA. The labelling rules for food additives sold as such are also updated.
General rules for flavourings, labelling requirements and maximum levels for substances present in flavourings which could pose public health problems are currently laid down in Directive 88/388/EEC. This legislation now needs to be updated to reflect technological and scientific developments. The new legislation proposed today sets out clearer rules on maximum levels for undesirable substances, in line with EFSA opinions. Definitions of flavourings (e.g. flavouring substance, flavouring preparation, thermal process flavouring) are clarified and stricter conditions are also introduced for the use of the term “natural” when describing flavourings .
Common Authorisation Procedure
A key aspect of the draft legislation put forward by the Commission today is the introduction of a single common procedure for the approval of food additives, flavourings and enzymes. This approval procedure includes a safety evaluation by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). The benefits of this common approach include simplified legislation and more consistency in the procedures used to approve additives, flavourings and enzymes, which is expected to be welcomed by the food industry.
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