Dr David Jukes, The University of Reading, UK

Providng access to food law since May 1996

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Last updated: 20 September, 2021

Improvement Agents: Flavourings

Providing access to EU and UK legislation

On this page:
  • Summary - Overview of the development of the controls
  • EU Legislation - Listing of EU Regulations covering the topic
  • UK Legislation - Listing of UK Regulations covering the topic
  • Guidance- Links to recommended supporting documents


Although functionally flavourings can be considered as a category of food additive, from a legislative perspective it has been easier to deal with them separately. This recognises that the quantities used for flavouring are significantly less than for most additives (and hence the toxicity issues are different) and that the number of chemicals used as flavourings is much larger than the combined number for all other additives.

The original EU framework legislation on flavourings was agreed in 1988 with the adoption of Directive 88/388. The term 'flavouring' was defined as:
. . . 'flavouring' means flavouring substances, flavouring preparations, process flavourings, smoke flavourings or mixtures thereof.
Each of the 4 elements of this definition were also given definitions and the Directive authorised the adoption of more detailed controls on each of them. In addition, the Directives set maximum limits for certain substances used as flavourings which were known to present a risk to consumers. As a first step, the Directive was supported by Decision 88/389 which provided for the creation of an inventory of source materials and substances. Directive 88/388 was subsequently enhanced by Directive 91/71.

Work on adopting the additional controls proceeded slowly with only 2 categories being subject to specific measures:

The current legislation on 'food flavourings' is however part of the legislative framework created for 'Improvement Agents' by EU legislation adopted in 2008. Other elements are 'food additives' and 'food enzymes' as indicated in this figure: [for information on 'Food Additives', see the separate page: Food Additives]

For the purposes of the legislation, 'flavourings' are now defined in Regulation 1334/2008 as follows:
. . . ‘flavourings’ shall mean products:
. . . (i) not intended to be consumed as such, which are added to food in order to impart or modify odour and/or taste;
. . . (ii) made or consisting of the following categories: flavouring substances, flavouring preparations, thermal process flavourings, smoke flavourings, flavour precursors or other flavourings or mixtures thereof.
Note that this refers to other sub-categories each of which is defined in the Regulation.

When adopted, Regulation 1334/2008 created an updated framework for the legislation on flavourings. The Regulation contained an Annex headed 'Annex I: Community list of flavourings and source materials approved for use in and on foods' but, on adoption, Annex I was empty. The first step was to transfer the list of approved flavouring substances from the earlier legislation (updated as appropriate). This happened in 2012 with the adoption of Regulation 872/2012 which created Part A of Annex I. The listing in Part A has subsequently been amended to take into account technical and scientific advances. With the exception of one item in Part E (see Regulation 2018/1246), Parts B-F relating to other flavouring elements have not had any substances included although transistional arrangements were established allowing the continued use of any such substances until 22 April 2018 - see Regulation 873/2012 as amended by Regulation 2018/1259.

Labelling of Flavourings

The main rules on the labelling of flavourings used in other foods are provided by Regulation 1169/2011 on the Provision of Food Information to Consumers - see in particular Annex VII, Part D. This does however refer to the definitions provided by Regulation 1334/2008. It also states that the use of the term 'natural' in describing flavourings should be based on Article 16 of Regulation 1334/2008.

For the Commission's page on Flavourings, see: Flavourings. The Commission also provides a 'Food Flavourings Database' which is an online version of Annex I.

EU Legislation

The process for authorising food additives, food enzymes and food flavourings is provided by a 'common authorisation procedure' regulation :

The specific controls for flavourings are contained in a separate regulation:

A consolidated text is available which incorporates the amendments into the text of the Regulation. See: Regulation 1334/2008 (September 2022)

Smoke Flavourings

Note: The legislation on smoke flavourings is still based upon the controls adopted in 2003. The legislation now includes a list of authorised primary products.

See also:

A consolidated text of Regulation 2065/2003 is available which incorporates the amendments into the text of the Regulation. See: Regulation 2065/2003 (Note: This text is dated 27 March 2021, the date when Regulation 2019/1381 becomes effective)

UK Legislation

Brexit: Prior to the IP Completion Day (31 December 2020), the legal requirements given in the EU Regulations listed above still applied to the UK. Since IP Completion Day, the EU Regulations above have been incorporated into UK legislation but with amendments to correct deficiencies. Information on this is given below. For more details of the process of incorporating EU legislation into UK law, see the separate page: UK Food Law: EU Legislation as Amended for the UK. Provisions for the enforcement of the controls (originally the EU Regulations but now as amended) have been provided in the UK Regulations listed below. For Northern Ireland, EU rules still apply.

1 January 2021: For interim guidance, see:

EU Legislation amended for application in the UK: with links to


Requirements for implementation and enforcement are provided separately for the four parts of the United Kingdom.


The following provide useful guidance to the legislation:

Guidelines on Flavourings

A document published by FoodDrinkEurope in about 2013 but appears to have been republished in October 2019. Provides detailed coverage of the controls. Link is to the publication on the FDE website.

EFFA Guidance Document on the EC Regulation on Flavourings

Produced by the European Flavour and Fragrance Association, this detailed document was updated in 2019. Link is to the publication on the EFFA website. For additional EFFA guidance, see their Guidance Documents page.

This page was first provided on 15 July 2016

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