EFSA gets into flavourings

The Executive Director of the European Food Safety Authority, Geoffrey Podger, has given the green light to a landmark contract in the Authority’s scientific development. As part of an important initiative aimed at making EU food safer; from July 2005 at the latest, only food flavourings which form part of a positive list will be allowed. The new contract will enable EFSA to finalise the scientific work necessary to complete the list by evaluating up to 800 flavouring substances between 2003 and 2005. Thus, it will finally be possible to put into force an important piece of European food safety legislation.

I am very happy that this contract has been agreed,’ said Mr Podger, who is in his second month as Executive Director. ‘It signifies that the all important scientific build up of the Authority is well under way. As many people in the food community know, we have recently set up our Advisory Forum, which comprises representatives of the existing EU Member States, as well as observers from the new member countries. This enables us to sit at the heart of an important network, as opposed to being just a single organisation. Then, by May, following a successful call for scientists which resulted in over one thousand applications, we intend to have completed all the evaluations and set up the first of our scientific panels. So, as you can see, we are making solid progress on the main, scientific part of our work, as well as on setting up the Authority’s basic infrastructure and resources.’

Background

European Parliament and Council Regulation (EC) No 2232/96 sets out the basic rules or the use of flavouring substances in or on foodstuffs in the EU. In particular, it aims to ensure that they present no risk to consumers’ health and that their use also does not mislead people. It also lays down a procedure for the establishment of an EU-wide positive list of flavouring substances. After its establishment, foreseen by July 2005 at the latest, only those flavouring substances listed may be added to foods.

The basic elements of the procedure for establishing the EU-wide positive list of flavouring substances are as follows:

  • The substances authorised for use in foodstuffs at national level have been listed by the Commission in a Register of about 2700 substances.
  • This was adopted as Commission Decision 1999/217/EC and it was last amended by Commission Decision 2002/113/EC.
  • The substances are evaluated in accordance with the programme laid down by Commission Regulation (EC) No 1565/2000. The information for the evaluation has to be submitted by manufacturers in compliance with a timetable adopted by Commission Regulation (EC) No 622/2002. The evaluation, which started in July 2000, is intended for completion within 5 years. According to Article 4 (3) of Commission Regulation (EC) No 2232/96, substances must be deleted from the register if, after the evaluation, it is clear that they do not comply with the general use criteria.

Until the end of 2002, work was carried out within the framework of scientific co-operation by Member States, in close co-operation with the Commission’s Scientific Committee on Food (SCF). The responsibility for ensuring that the work is effectively completed has now passed to EFSA, who recently published a general invitation to tender for assistance with the work. Following the evaluation procedure, the contract has been awarded to the Institute of Food Safety and Nutrition at the Danish Veterinary and Food Administration in Denmark, and they will work under the guidance of EFSA´s scientific panel on Additives, Flavourings, Processing Aids and Materials in Contact with Food. The end product will be, not only a positive list of permitted flavourings, but also a FLAVIS data base containing all the scientific information which was used for the safety evaluation of the flavouring substances.