Progress towards the regulation of flavouring substances
Under Article 3(1) of Regulation 2232/96, Member States were required to notify to the Commission lists of flavourings substances which are used in or on foodstuffs marketed in their territory by November 1997. The second stage, as set out in Article 3(2) of the Regulation, is for the Commission to draw up an EU-wide register. The register has been discussed in draft at Working Group meetings during 1998 and the final version was adopted at the meeting of the Standing Committee on 17 December. The Commission acknowledged at this meeting that the register inevitably was not perfect and that further discussion and refinement will be required. The Commission therefore intends to hold a Working Group meeting in March, when various detailed issues will hopefully be resolved.
The letter mentions the following points:
The register will be published in the Official Journal of the European Communities within the next few months. We expect that the Commission will make the register available to Member States in electronic form, in which case we will be able to supply disk versions of the register to those who are interested. If you would like to receive a disk copy, please provide your name and address to Mr Freddie Lachhman, Room 239 Ergon House, 17 Smith Square, London SWiP 3JR. Please specify whether you would prefer the register to be formatted for Excel (version 5) or for Access (version 2).
The status of the register
The register is one further step along the way to the introduction of a legally-enforceable positive list of flavouring substances. In addition to providing the basis for subsequent work on safety evaluations (see below), the register is intended to provide a basis for mutual recognition and therefore to facilitate trade between Member States until the positive list is in place. The adoption of the EU register does not prohibit the use (at national level) of any flavouring substances not included in it and the UK legislation covering the use of flavourings remains unchanged.
Future work towards the positive list of flavouring substances
Under Regulation 2232/96, the Commission is required to draw up a programme for the evaluation of the flavouring substances on the register within 10 months of the register being adopted. Any company marketing a flavouring substance will need to be prepared to provide any data necessary for its evaluation. If it is concluded that a substance may present a risk to health or in some other way does not comply with the general criteria in the annex of Regulation 2232/96 then it will be deleted from the register (Article 4(3)).
Article 5(1) states that the evaluation programme must be completed within five years of the adoption of the evaluation programme (i.e. October 2004). The resulting positive list will then be adopted by the Standing Committee on Foodstuffs. After this date, the only chemically defined flavourings which will be permitted for use across the European Union will be those on this list.