Food Law News - EU - 1999

7 January 1999: ADDITIVES - Commission decision against Swedish provisions concerning the use of certain colourings and sweeteners in foodstuffs

Commission Press Release (IP/99/7), 7 January 1999

Commission decision against Swedish provisions concerning the use of certain colourings and sweeteners in foodstuffs

After in-depth analysis on a scientific basis, the European Commission has decided that Sweden is not entitled to maintain certain national measures concerning foodstuff colourings (azo dayes) and cyclamat derogating from the European Directives on food additives. The Commission considers that, while the Swedish measures are meant to protect public health, they are excessive in relation to this aim. However, the Commission will keep the issue under review and is ready to use safeguard procedures to protect European citizens if new information emerges that would suggest the need for such a measure.

Under certain conditions, Article 100a (para. 4) of the EC Treaty provides Member States with the possibility of applying stricter national provisions instead of harmonised European provisions. A Member State wanting to use this possibility notifies the Commission of these strict provisions and the Commission examines the case and decides whether the derogation could be granted.

The Swedish provisions derogating from the Directive 94/36/EEC on colourings concern the conditions of use of azo dyes in foodstuffs. This relates in particular to: E 102 (Tartrazine), E 110 (Sunset Yellow S), E 122 (Azorubine), E 123 (Amaranth), E 124 (Ponceau 4R, Cochineal Red A), E128 (Red 2G), E 129 (Allura Red AC), E 151 (Brilliant Black BN, Black PN), E 154 (Brown FK), E 155 (Brown HT) and E 180 (Litholrubine BK).

The Swedish authorities invoke the risks of allergies linked to the consumption of foodstuffs containing these azo dyes, and want to maintain their restrictive measures. The Commission recalls that the Directive was adopted in full knowledge of the facts. The European legislator did not consider it necessary to prohibit generally the use of these colourings providing that the consumer is fully informed. Community legislation on labelling guarantees full information on these colourings for the consumers. Directive 79/119/EEC on labelling imposes the mandatory indication of aditives on the label of foodstuffs.

The Swedish provisions derogating from the Directive 94/35/EEC on sweeteners concern the conditions of use of the cyclamate in food. The Swedish authorities wish to maintain their measures as they believe that the levels of consumption of foodstuffs likely to contain cyclamate under the conditions laid down by the Directive may result in the acceptable daily intake of cyclamate being exceeded. The Commission has examined the information submitted by the Swedish authorities but this examination does not conclude that this information proves there is a risk of the acceptable daily intake being exceeded as suggested.

In both cases the Commission considers that the scientific data submitted by the Swedish authorities does not provide any reason to believe that such additives present a public health risk. They cannot call into question the opinion of the Scientific Committee for human foodstuffs on the basis of which both directives were adopted on 30 June 1994. However, if new information on either of these additives were to emerge suggesting that there might be a health risk, safeguard procedures would be introduced in order to protect all European citizens.

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