FSA Letter, 19 December 2002
The FSA is seeking views on a European Commission proposal for a fifth amendment to Directive 95/2/EC on food additives other than colours and sweeteners.
A short summary of the proposal together with some background is included. The text of the proposal itself (COM (2002) 662 final) can be see at: COM(2002)662 (pdf file). This includes the Commission's explanatory memorandum and impact assessment form.
The closing date for any comments on this proposal is 17 January 2003.
The European Commission has recently published a proposal to amend Directive
95/2/EC on food additives other than colours and sweeteners for the fifth time.
The key points of the proposal are as follows:
· The authorisation of one new food additive - hydrogenated poly-1-decene, following its evaluation by the Scientific Committee on Food, and a number of new food uses of already permitted food additives.
· Clarification of the coverage of certain food categories and the extension of certain food categories in which food additives may be used.
· The withdrawal of one additive - E 170 (ii) calcium hydrogen carbonate - and one use of a permitted additive - phosphates in cider and perry - both of which are now obsolete; the withdrawal of certain preservatives used on fruit which now fall to legislation on the control of plant protection products.
· The introduction of numerical maximum limits for permitted uses of carnauba wax (E 903), following recent advice from the Scientific Committee on Food. The additive is currently permitted at quantum satis level.
· Clarification of the scope of the food additive category 'stabilisers' to cover binding agents.
· Harmonisation of the controls on additives needed for the storage and use of flavourings.
European Parliament and Council Directive 95/2/EC harmonised the use of food additives other than colours and sweeteners (referred to in UK legislation as miscellaneous food additives) throughout the EU.
It has been amended on three previous occasions, with a fourth amendment which relates solely to the issue of the restriction of the use of konjac (E 425) in jelly confectionery currently being discussed in Brussels. It contains lists of permitted food additives and lists of the foods in which they may be used and conditions of use. It also lists the additive functions controlled by the Directive.
The proposed amendment (COM (2002) 662 final) has two main purposes. The first is to update Directive 95/2/EC to take into account recent scientific and technical developments. The second is to harmonise for the first time throughout the European Union legislative controls on additives needed for the storage and use of flavourings.
At present, different laws apply in individual Member States to these substances, with no specific controls existing in the UK, although any substance added to food must meet the general requirements of the Food Safety Act 1990.
Under the new proposal additives used in flavourings would, in most cases, be controlled by way of a maximum limit in the flavouring, given that the carry over levels of most additives into food via flavourings is very low, with no technological function in the final food. (Most flavoured foods contain less than 1% of the flavouring).
However, in cases where it might be difficult to judge clearly whether a transferred additive has a technological function in the food or not, a maximum use level would be set in the final food.
The proposed amendments relating to the addition and withdrawal of food additives and food additive uses have previously been discussed at the European Commission Working Groups on food additives, and the proposed additives in flavourings amendments at the Commission Working Group on Flavourings.
The Commission's formal proposal will be discussed at a Council Working Group chaired by the Greek Presidency, possibly on 20 January 2003. Consultation on this proposal will be subject to a shorter deadline than the standard period of twelve weeks so that we can be prepared to take account of any views expressed when negotiations commence in Brussels.
Comments should therefore be submitted as soon as possible, and if possible, by 17 January 2003.
In the UK, this proposal will be examined by the House of Commons European Scrutiny Committee and the House of Lords Select Committee on the European Communities.
The adoption of this measure is subject to the EU Co-decision procedure. The proposal will therefore be considered both by the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers.
Once the amending Directive is agreed by both the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers, it will need to be implemented in the UK.
Coming into force
As currently drafted, it will allow trade in and the use of products which comply with the Directive from a date 18 months after the Directive has come into force. In addition, as currently drafted, it will allow trade in and the use of products no longer permitted by the Directive from a date 24 months after it has come into force.
A provision for using up old stocks of products marketed or labelled before the period of 24 months has elapsed and which are no longer permitted by the Directive has also been included.
The FSA have queried with the Commission why there is a need for an 18 month period to elapse before trade in and the use of products which comply with the Directive can take place as this has not been a feature of previous amendments to Directive 95/2/EC. The FSA are awaiting a response. However, in the meantime, any comments on this proposed time-scale would be welcome.
The Directive will be implemented in England by a further amendment to the Miscellaneous Food Additives Regulations 1995 and will also be implemented separately in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Before new regulations are implemented in the UK, they will be subject to separate consultation exercises in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.