Since July 2008, the risk assessment of flavouring substances has been carried out by EFSA’s Panel on Food Contact Materials, Enzymes, Flavourings and Processing Aids (CEF). Previously the task was performed by the former Panel on Food Additives, Flavourings, Processing Aids and Materials in Contact with Food (AFC).
EFSA’s work on smoke flavourings, which are regulated separately from other flavourings, are detailed in a separate topic.
Flavouring group evaluations
EFSA regularly adopts opinions on each chemical group, known as flavouring group evaluations. To assess safety, EFSA scientists look at intake levels, absorption, metabolism and toxicity of individual substances. Where EFSA identifies data gaps – for instance on toxicity or exposure – it notifies the need for further data to the applicant and to the European Commission. In the course of its work EFSA has asked manufacturers to provide further data on around 400 substances. EFSA re-assesses those substances once the required data are received. A complete evaluation is needed for the substances to be included on the EU list.
The European Commission maintains a register of flavourings notified by Member States as present on the EU market. It may remove substances during the evaluation programme, particularly when EFSA identifies safety concerns.
Some flavouring substances evaluated by EFSA have already been assessed by other risk assessment bodies such as the Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additive (JECFA). EFSA always takes account of any relevant conclusions available when it assesses flavouring substances. EFSA's assessments put more emphasis on the potential genotoxicity of flavouring substances, which is not prioritised to the same degree in the evaluations carried out by other risk assessment bodies such as JECFA.
Other flavouring substances
In addition to the flavouring group evaluation programme, EFSA assesses the safety of individual flavouring substances in response to requests from the European Commission and other risk managers. It has issued opinions for instance on camphor and coumarin.