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Brussels, 2 June 2006

Commissioner Kyprianou welcomes agreement on revision of food additives and sweeteners legislation

Markos Kyprianou, Commissioner for Health and Consumer Protection, has welcomed the agreement at today’s Health Council to amend 2 EU Directives on food additives and sweeteners. The proposed amendments include stricter requirements for nitrites and nitrates in meat, in line with a Court of Justice ruling[1] and a European Food Safety Authority opinion on the levels of these substances which can be considered safe in meat. The proposal agreed today also allows the use of seven new food additives and extends the permitted uses of certain other additives. These changes to the current legislation for food additives and sweeteners will ensure the better functioning of the internal market, and maintain a high level of food safety and consumer protection.

Commissioner Kyprianou said, “I welcome Council’s agreement on these revisions to the food additives and sweeteners legislation. The proposal put forward directly reflects legal and scientific advice, and updates the legislation in line with the latest developments in this field. Our top priority when it comes to food additives is always to ensure the highest possible level of consumer protection in the EU, and these amendments are entirely in keeping with that goal.”

New rules for nitrites and nitrates in meat

The legislation agreed today adapts the authorised levels of nitrates and nitrites permitted in meat, in line with a ruling by the Court of Justice in 2000, and a subsequent scientific opinion from the European Food Safety Authority. The level of nitrosamines (which are formed from nitrates and nitrites) will be kept as low as possible by lowering the levels of nitrites and nitrates added to food. Specific provisions are however provided for some traditional meat products, which rely on certain technological processes and would disappear from the market if forced to comply with the general provisions. However, for such traditional products a description of the production process has been included so that they can be easily recognised and defined.

New and extended authorisations

The amended legislation authorises seven new additives : Erythritol, soybean hemicellulose, ethyl cellulose, hexylresorcinol, tertiary butyl hydroquinone (TBHQ), pullulan, and starch aluminium octenyl succinate. Each of these additives underwent a safety evaluation by the Scientific Committee on Food or the European Food Safety Authority prior the Commission proposing their authorisation. The authorisations of several other additives have also been extended to allow them a wider range of use in foods (e.g. sodium hydrogen carbonate in sour milk cheese).

Ban on dangerous gelling agents

Additionally the amended legislation will formalise the ban on the use of certain gelling agents in jelly mini cups which have been identified as a choking risk. An earlier Commission Decision was used to ban this use as a temporary measure until the ban could be formalised in this amendment (see IP/04/479).

For more information:

[1] Case C-3/00 Denmark V Commission

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