Food Law News - EU - 2003

EP New Item, 22 January 2003

ADDITIVES - Environment Committee warns of health risks to children of food additives

The Environment Committee is calling for a review of the safety levels for food additives used in confectionery, soft drinks and snacks, which are consumed in large quantities by children and adolescents.

It voted unanimously today in favour of the report by Marit PAULSEN (ELDR, S), under the codecision procedure (first reading), supporting the Commission's proposal for a permanent ban on the use of the food additive E 425 konjac in jelly confectionery, in response to reports that jelly mini-cups - bite-sized cakes containing a small piece of fruit - containing the additive pose a risk of death by choking.

But the committee is also calling in its report for a review, within three years, of the safety levels for all the food additives listed in Directive 95/2/EC, with proposals to amend them where necessary on the basis of their effects on children's health. Ms Paulsen pointed out this morning that the limit values are set for adults but that children are the biggest consumers of the food and drinks concerned. She says: "the Commission's proposal raises a very important and more far-reaching question of principle concerning additives which are frequently present in non-staple foods".

The Commission representative said the rapporteur's points were very valid and were being addressed in proposals currently being drafted for a major revision of all food safety legislation. However, it first wanted to respond to the immediate danger posed by E 425 konjac. This substance is used as a thickening agent in confectionery and can cause choking when it fails to dissolve in the mouth. Eighteen deaths linked to this additive have been reported outside the EU and one death in the UK last year is under investigation.

An amendment bringing forward the implementation of the ban in the Member States to six months after the legislation is published was also adopted.

Ms Paulsen's amended version of the Commission proposal passes to the full Parliament in Strasbourg in February.

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