New EU flavourings list made possible with EFSA’s evaluations

Today’s landmark publication of the European Union list of flavourings authorised for use in foods in the EU is a major milestone for consumer protection that also brings clarity to industry. Since 2003, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has played an important part in preparing this list by evaluating the safety of thousands of flavouring substances, publishing 170 scientific opinions to date. Currently, over 2,500 flavouring substances have been deemed fit for inclusion in the EU list which enters into force on 22 October 2012. This significant programme of scientific work, which is still ongoing, has played and continues to play a critical role in ensuring that flavouring substances used in foods are of no safety concern for consumers.

Of the substances evaluated to date by EFSA within the “Flavouring Evaluation Programme” some 2,800 were already on the market while around 200 are new. This large number of substances needed to be evaluated under European legislation to ensure that they are safe when used as flavourings in foods.

EFSA’s Scientific Panel on Food Contact Materials, Enzymes, Flavourings and Processing Aids (CEF) has said that the majority of flavouring substances do not give rise to safety concerns; however, seven flavouring substances for which EFSA, the Scientific Committee on Food and the FAO/WHO Joint Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA) raised toxicological concerns have been removed from the EU market. The CEF Panel has asked for further data to allow it to complete the evaluation of over 400 substances included in the Programme. The new EU list, which will apply from 22 April 2013 and will be updated annually, contains deadlines for submission of these new data by industry.

Iona Pratt, Chair of the CEF Panel, said: “The Panel is extremely satisfied that this long-term programme of work is now coming to fruition. However, our job is not completely done yet. Besides the remaining substances for which data are required, EFSA also expects to receive a number of applications related to new flavourings, many of which are likely to be complex mixtures that may require a revised risk assessment approach.”

Looking to the future, the Authority is holding a technical meeting with stakeholders on 14 November, to allow exchanges of views on the future administrative and scientific challenges related to the preparation, submission and risk assessment of applications for flavourings.

Notes to editors

Flavourings are substances used to impart taste and/or smell to food. Flavourings used in a wide variety of foods, from confectionery and soft drinks to cereals, cakes and yoghurts. They are used in comparatively small amounts so that consumer exposure is relatively low. For more information about EFSA’s completed and ongoing work in this area see the Topic on Flavourings .

The “Flavouring Evaluation Programme” was established by Regulation 1565/2000/EC of 18 July 2000. The Regulation laid down the substances to be evaluated, the kind of information to be provided and the procedure to be followed for the evaluation. See the European Commission website for further details.

Since 2009, data covering 179 flavouring substances have been submitted but in some cases the data were judged to be insufficient and the Panel has requested further information. In addition, for 137 substances toxicity data other than genotoxicity are also needed. If the requested data are not supplied to EFSA in time or if the safety of the use of a particular substance cannot be ascertained from the additional data provided, for example on genotoxicity (i.e. ability to harm DNA, the genetic material of cells), EU decision-makers will remove the relevant substance from the EU list. The manufacturers will then have to withdraw them from the market.

Media contacts