Dr David Jukes, The University of Reading, UK

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( Note: This page is cop22 October, 2019e format:Sw1 -->3 June, 2019 )

Food Additives in the European Union

(compiled by Dr David Jukes)

On this page:
  • EU Law - description of the legislation controlling additives in the EU with links to EU documents
  • UK Law - links to the UK legislation implementing the EU law
  • Development of New EU Controls - detailed background information relating to the new Regulations adopted in November 2008 and subsequent developments
For a listing of E-numbers, see: EU Food Additives: Listing by E Number
For information relating to the previous controls (described as Stage 2 below), see: Food Additives: Archive Material

For access to the UK additive controls from 1925-2000, see: UK Food Additives Historical Development of Legal Controls (1925-2000)


The adoption of a single harmonised list of food additives for the European Union has taken a long time. It can be split into 3 separate stages:

The following figure illustrates how the controls of food additives are part of the overall control of food improvement agents:

Note that for EU legislative purposes, food flavourings are not considered as food additives and are covered by separate legislation based on Regulation 1334/2008 [For details, see the separate page: Food Flavourings].

Some aspects of the chronology of the control of food additives (Stages 2 and 3) are illustrated in this figure:

For a larger version of this figure as a pdf file, Click Here

EU Law

Additional information can be found on the European Commission's page relating to Food Improvement Agents at

Stage 3 - Controls based on Regulation 1333/2008
For quick access - Consolidated version of Regulation 1333/2008 (May 2018)

The broader framework for food additives, food enzymes and food flavourings is provided by a 'common authorisation procedure' regulation - Regulation 234/201:


The general and the detailed controls on food additives are now contained in a single document - Regulation 1333/2008:


For a pdf copy of the consolideted version of Regulation 1333/2008, see: 1333/2008 Consolidated Text (pdf) (published October 2018) [Caution - this document is 345 pages long!].

Specifications of Purity

These have been published in a separate Regulation:

For a consolideted version of Regulation 231/2012, see: 231/2012 Consolidated Text (published November 2016) [Caution - this document is 282 pages long!]

Procedural Matters

In addition, there has been one implementing measure providing details of the procedures to be followed when requesting the approval of new additives, enzymes and flavourings:

For a consolideted version of Regulation 234/2011, see: 234/2011 Consolidated Text (published July 2012)

For more details on the development of these new controls, see the section below: The Development of the new EU Controls

Adding Additives to the List

Risk management responsibility for food additives lies with the Directorate General for Health and Consumer Protection (DG SANCO). The Directorate Geneneral has published a short descriptive document giving 'Administrative Guidance for the request of authorisation of a food additive'. This can be found at: Administrative Guidance. Scientific risk assessment is now the responsibility of the European Food Safety Authority and, in particular, their Panel on Food Additives and Nutrient Sources Added to Food (ANS). There is a separate, but related, Panel on Food Contact Materials, Enzymes, Flavourings and Processing Aids (CEF).

See also the implementing measure mentioned above relating to the controls: Commission Regulation (EU) No 234/2011

UK Law

Enforcement of the EU Regulations

The EU Regulations adopted in December 2008 impose direct legal requirements in the UK. However they require legal provisions to provide for their enforcement and for penalites. The following Regulations provide these:




Northern Ireland

The Development of the new EU Controls

In July 2006, the Commission published a set of four proposed Regulations which would replace the current system and provide a common basis for controls on food additives, food flavourings and food enzymes. They were adopted by the Council of Ministers in November 2008 and published in the Official Journal on 31 December 2008.


The proposals were published as Commission Documents as follows:

Amended proposals were published by the Commission in October 2007:

Following the adoption of Common Positions by the Council of Ministers (10th March 2008), on the 11th March 2008 the Commission published 3 communications:

Following the European Parliament's 2nd Reading (8th July 2008), on 16th October 2008 the Commission published 4 opinions:

The adopted regulations were published in the Official Journal on 31 December 2008. They enter into force on various dates from 20 January 2009 until 20 January 2011:

News Items

The following are links to news items available on this site relating to the progress of the proposals, the adoption of the controls and subsequent related developments:

Progress of the proposals

Adoption of the Regulations

Subsequent Developments

This page was first provided on 29 July 1996

To go to main Foodlaw-Reading Index page, click here.