Dr David Jukes, The University of Reading, UK

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Last updated: 26 November, 2018

EU Legislation: Improvement Agents - Flavourings

On this page:
  • Summary - - Overview of the development of the controls
  • EU Law - Listing of the legislation controlling food flavourings in the EU with links to EU 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 subsequntly 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 Law

A consolidated text is available which incorporates the amendments into the text of the Regulation. See: Regulation 1334/2008 - Consolidated Text (October 2018)

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:

This page was first provided on 15 July 2016

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