Food Law News - EU - 2000

FSA Letter, 28 July 2000

FLAVOURINGS - Commission Working Group on Flavourings 28 June 2000

On 26 October 1999 the Joint MAFF/DH Food Safety and Standards Group (JFSSG) wrote a letter to provide an update discussions in Brussels on a number of flavurings' issues. Responsibility for food safety and food standards transferred to the Food Standards Agency on 1 April. This letter provides an update on four issues that were discussed at a further working group meeting which took place on 28 June:

(a) Amendments to Flavourings Framework Directive (88/388/EEC)

The latest draft Commission proposal has been circulated. There was broad agreement on these possible amendments which are detailed below.

Scope The earlier letter explained that the existing directive had been subject to different interpretation in Member States. Some had considered that it applied to foods where the flavour is provided by the normal ingredients and/or by herbs and spices. The intention of the current draft is to make it explicit that the directive does not apply to herbs and spices. However, extracts of herbs and spices would fall with its scope. This reflects the UK's interpretation of the existing directive and is in line with current UK regulations.

There was considerable discussion on the principle that flavourings, should be permitted to contain foodstuffs. The proposed amendment is intended to reflect (unchanged) Article 1(3) of the current directive but some member states were concerned about the implications and sought deletion of the word 'foodstuffs'. It is possible that this may have resulted from a translation problem. The FSA understanding is that foodstuffs such as flour, salt, cheese powder or rusk are very widely used in flavourings across the EU. Delegates were given the opportunity to submit written comments if they had a problem with this provision..

A revised definition for process flavourings, tabled by the trade association EFFA, was considered but it was agreed that the definition for these products should not be too restrictive (e.g. the EFFA definition would apply only to mixtures containing nitrogen and reducing sugars). The Commission wording will therefore stand for the time being. There was concern whether it was appropriate to include an Annex with detailed controls on these flavourings in a framework directive. The Commission proposed to amend Annex III by deleting the lists of permitted ingredients and moving the purity criteria to Annex I.

Other issues. There was discussion about the need for drawing up a statutory list of all foodstuffs not permitted to contain flavourings. This received some support in principle from Member States but the UK expressed concern that new regulations should only be drawn up if there was justification e.g. on grounds of consumer protection

The Commission will revise the provisions requiring the indication of GM derived material to bring them more closely into line with similar provisions in other legislation.

In taking forward these amendments to the framework directive, the Commission agreed to consider whether the proposal should be issued as a draft consolidated directive, rather than a series of textual amendments and deletions. The Commission now awaits the Scientific Committee on Food (SCF)'s view on the 'active principles' in Annex II before proceeding with a formal proposal which is expected by the end of the year.

(b) Draft Commission Regulation for Food Additives in Flavourings

The earlier letter explained that this proposal was intended to control the use of carriers and other food additives used for technological purposes in commercial flavourings. There had been little progress at the earlier meeting but France had now provided the Commission and Member States with a document outlining a possible way forward on the main issues which was broadly welcomed. This proposed a mechanism for setting maximum carry-over levels for additives in the final food, resulting from their use in flavourings. Following discussion there was general agreement that limits should be set for the final food rather than for the flavouring itself. EFFA undertook to provide details of additives used in flavourings sold direct to the consumer, which would need to be dealt with separately.

(c) Register of Flavouring Substances

The meeting was given an update on the work of the Scientific Co-operation Task group which is working through the Register checking for consistency and errors. It will also allocate 'FL' numbers to the substances and divide them into chemical groups. The SCOOP group will also prepare datasheets for evaluation by the SCF.

Note: The evaluation programme for flavouring substances has now been formally adopted by the Commission and was published in the Official Journal on 19 July as Commission Regulation (EC) No 1565/2000.

(d) Regulations on smoke flavourings in Member States

A tour de table showed that many Member States, including the UK, do not have specific national provision on smoke flavourings; those that did had varied controls (e.g. some were just for meat products and others only had purity criteria for the woods used). The Commission proposed that consistent rules should be drawn up. A small group including EFFA undertook to draft a paper for discussion at the next meeting.

To go to current EU Food Law News page,
click here.
To go to main Food Law Index page, click here.