Food Law News - EU - 1998

9 June 1998: ADDITIVES - Flavourings - EC Developments

MAFF/DoH Letter, 9 June 1998

Flavourings - EC Developments

The letter provides updates on two issues relating to flavourings arising from a meeting of the Commission Working Group on Flavourings which took place in Brussels on 2 June 1998..

Matters relating to Regulation (EC) No 2232/96 laying down a Community procedure for flavouring substances used or intended for use in or on foodstuffs

Draft List of Flavourings Used in the EU

As required under Article 3(1) of the Regulation, member states have notified to the Commission lists of flavouring substances which are used in or on foodstuffs marketed in their territory. Under Article 3(2), the Commission is now required to draw up an EU-wide register of flavouring substances and, as a first step towards this, has drawn up a draft list by compiling the various national notifications. This list has been circulated to member states for comment and initial reactions were presented at the meeting.

The Commission noted that the UK’s list included a significant number of substances which were have not been reported by other member states and which were no on the “core” list drawn up by the European Flavour and Fragrance Association (EFFA). The UK list was compiled by contacting individual companies involved in manufacturing, formulating and using flavourings and combining this with information from EFFA (which covered natural and nature-identical substances only) and a list of artificial substances which was provided by the British Essence Manufacturers’ Association (BEMA). The Commission requested that the UK confirm that all the substances reported are actually in use as flavourings. The Ministry will therefore be writing individually to BEMA and the various companies which submitted the additional substances for this information. EFFA has also undertaken to check its own list.. Whilst not wishing to be overly restrictive, it is recognised that the inclusion of unnecessary entries in the register will create additional burdens on the evaluation and approval process.

Precursor flavourings

A number of the substances on the list appear to fall into the category of “precursor flavourings”, which do not in themselves have significant flavouring properties but react with other food components during food processing to generate flavour in the final food. Some member states have questioned whether they should be included in the register and the Commission and member states will be consulting their legal experts before deciding on the legality of including these substances in the register. Having considered this issues previously, it is the Ministry’s view that precursor flavourings do meet the relevant definitions since they are used ”in or on foodstuffs to impart odour and/or taste” (Article 1(2) of 2232/96 and Article 1 of 88/388/EEC). However the Ministry will be confirming this interpretation with their lawyers. In the meantime, EFFA has agreed to construct a separate list of these substances so that, if necessary, they can be considered separately.

Substances with other additive uses

It has been noted that the draft list includes about two dozen substances which are authorised for other food additive uses, including preservatives and flavour enhancers. EFFA has agreed to identify which of these are genuinely used for their flavouring properties.

Handling of confidential information

Regulation 2232/96 provides for the protection of intellectual property by allowing the precise identity of new flavourings to be kept confidential, but until recently there has been no statements of how this might be achieved. The letter encloses two documents from the Commission published in the Official Journal at the end of April. The first is a Commission Communication (OJ C131, 29.4.98, p.3) which sets out how confidential information will be protected within the Commission. The second is a Commission Recommendation (OJ L127, 29.4.98, p.32) which is addressed to member states and advises on the procedures which they ought to adopt to meet their obligations under national and Community legislation with respect to the handling of confidential data.

Draft Proposal for a Directive amending Directive 88/388/EEC on the approximation of the laws of the member states relating to flavourings for use in foodstuffs and to source materials for their production

The Commission reported that it had very recently received a report into the safety of coumarin which had been commission by the International Organisation of the Flavouring Industry (IOFI). This report includes various studies which were not available when the Scientific Committee on Food (SCF) last considered coumarin, when it advised that the limits in Directive 88/388 should be reduced. The industry felt that these studies may resolve the concerns expressed by the SCF and the Commission has said that it will forward this report to the SCF for urgent evaluation.

Member states pointed out that coumarin was only one of several issues which needed to be tacked and the Commission reported that it would endeavour to proceed with these while the SCF was considering the new data.

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