Food Law News - EU - 1998

26 March 1998: ADDITIVES - Environment Council Minutes, Meeting on 23 March

Council Minutes, 26 March 1998

Food additives other than colours and sweeteners

The following is taken from the minutes of the Environment Council Meeting held on 23 March 1998

Following the agreement reached at the "Internal Market" Council of 27 November 1997, the Council formally adopted, by a qualified majority, the common position on the amendment of the Directive on food additives other than colours or sweeteners (Directive 95/2/EC). The German, Austrian and Danish delegations voted against the text and the Belgian delegation abstained.

The common position will now be forwarded to the European Parliament for second reading according to the codecision procedure.

The voting explanations of the Belgian, Danish, German, Swedish and Austrian delegations can be found below.

Explanation of the Belgian delegation's vote

The common position which the Council has adopted on the proposal for a Directive amending Directive 95/2/EC on food additives other than colours and sweeteners is unsatisfactory in the view of the Belgian delegation on three counts. For that reason the Belgian delegation abstained from the vote on the common position.

The proposal does away with the planned increase from 600 to 1,200 mg/kg for SO2 used in dehydrated apples and pears that are to undergo a second process. Belgium believes that that increase complies with the conditions laid down in framework Directive89/107/EEC for the use of additives (technological need, no danger to health, demonstrable advantages for the consumer). Directive 95/2/EC as it stands at present also provides that SO2 can be used in quantities of up to 2,000 mg/kg for dried grapes, apricots, peaches, plums and figs.

The use of nisin is forbidden for pasteurized eggs, but not for mascarpone. Belgium considers that the use of nisin is justified on the technological level for both pasteurized eggs and mascarpone.

The proposal authorizes the use of thaumatin in non alcoholic drinks and desserts. Belgium does not consider it desirable to use this flavour enhancer in those products.

Explanation of the Danish delegation's vote

The Danish Government cannot record agreement on the Council's common position since it is reluctant to extend the use of sulphite and nisin in foodstuffs.

The fact that Directive 95/2/EC concerning additives other than colours and sweeteners authorizes the use of sulphite already results, in the Danish Government's view, in a level of absorption of sulphite by consumers which is inconsistent with the recommendations of the Scientific Committee for Food. It is therefore inappropriate to extend the authorization to use sulphite.

Nisin is a substance comparable to antibiotics. The Danish Government considers that such substances should not, as a matter of principle, be included in foodstuffs.

Explanation of the German delegation's vote

The German delegation regrets that additives E500 (sodium carbonates), E338 (phosphoric acid), E339 (sodium phosphates), E340 (potassium phosphates), E341 (calcium phosphates), E343(magnesium phosphates), E450(diphosphates), E451(triphosphates) and E452 (polyphosphates) have been generally authorized for soured cream butter although there was no technological requirement which justified it. The German delegation believes that the additive E 500 (sodium carbonates) and the phosphates actually used should be authorized only for specific products in the manufacture of which such substances are traditionally used in Sweden and Finland.

Point 4(d) of the Annex is not a satisfactory solution for the fixing of a maximum level of SO2 for dehydrated apples and pears containing more than 12% water. Those products are marketed both in the Member States and internationally and with SO2 of up to 1,500 mg/kg of the product. Unfortunately no account has been taken of that fact.

Explanation of the Swedish delegation's vote

The proposal also provides for the authorization to use a number of food additives in foodstuffs for healthy infants and young children. Sweden considers that additives should as far as possible be restricted in foodstuffs for babies, in particular babies between birth and three months of age, in respect of whom scientific opinions on food additives are not applicable from every point of view. The additives currently referred to in the proposal are not, however, such as to endanger children's health and can therefore be accepted.

Explanation of the Austrian delegation's vote

a) Regarding the general authorization of the addition to soured cream butter of the sodium carbonates and the phosphates listed in Annex IV: As already stated in the recitals to Directive 95/2/EC, it is generally accepted that certain foodstuffs should be free of additives. Butter in particular is indisputably a product that one is entitled to expect to meet such a purity requirement, particularly as in Austria - just as in other Member States, evidently - there is no technological requirement that would justify the use of such additives. Austria would have no objection to the addition of phosphates and carbonates to Swedish and Finnish butter only (which is obviously necessitated by technological considerations).

b) Regarding the extension of the authorization of thaumatin for water based flavoured non alcoholic drinks and desserts, dairy and non dairy: The assessment of thaumatin carried out by the Scientific Committee for Food (SCF) in 1988, in the course of which, inter alia, the possibilities for its use, limited from a technological point of view, were insisted on, was based on a totally different assumption concerning exposure to this product. The conclusions of that study are no longer relevant to the extension of the authorization of thaumatin. In the absence of a further, prior assessment by the SCF the use of thaumatin in the foodstuffs in question, which are also, furthermore, consumed in large quantities by children, should be ruled out.

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