EP News, 8 May 2007
The food industry uses a great deal of natural and artificial flavourings with around 2600 being currently registered. More and more enzymes are entering into the production of commodities that we consume. Two new European Regulations, approved on 8 May by the Parliament's Committee for Environment, Public Health and Food Safety, aim to improve consumer safety and confidence in the use of such substances.
Two other regulations got the green light from the committee a month ago: a "horizontal" regulation setting up a common authorisation procedure for additives, enzymes and flavourings and a specific regulation on additives [See 11 April 2007]. The two specific regulations before the Environment Committee today - one on flavourings and the other on enzymes - complete the set. The report on the first (on flavourings) was drafted by Mojca Drcar Murko (ALDE, SI) and adopted by 46 votes to 0 with 2 abstentions. The report on the second (on enzymes) was drafted by Avril Doyle (EPP-ED, IE) and adopted by 43 votes to 0 with 1 abstention.
In both cases, the purpose is to define the conditions of use and draw up a positive list of authorised substances which will be the subject of an evaluation procedure by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) to check that they pose no health problems and do not mislead the consumer. MEPs want to make the conditions of use stricter and they believe that the use of enzymes and flavourings must also bring a benefit to the consumer. In both cases, they adopted amendments introducing the precautionary principle.
For flavourings, the regulation provides for a list of substances which meet the criteria as well as a list of banned products and maximum levels for particular substances. MEPs believe flavourings must only be used if their use is a technological necessity and when the effect sought cannot be achieved with spices. They also call for the effect of flavourings on vulnerable groups to be investigated, and in particular the impact on the food preferences of children.
MEPs also considerably strengthened the rules on labelling. Flavourings and enzymes produced from GMOs, like additives, must be indicated as such. A flavouring should only be deemed "natural" if 95% of the flavouring element is of natural origin.