Food additive re-evaluations

Food additives are substances added intentionally to foodstuffs to perform certain technological functions, for example to colour, to sweeten or to help preserve foods.

Under EU legislation from 2008, the safety of all food additives authorised for use in the EU prior to 20 January 2009 must be re-evaluated. Their use is allowed until their review is complete. The deadline for completion of the re-evaluation of all food additives is 2020.

In July 2016, EFSA completed the last two re-evaluations of food colours, reaching an important milestone in the re-evaluation programme. Overall, the ANS Panel re-assessed 41 food colours. As a result of this work, the maximum levels of three colours (E 104, E 110, E 124) were lowered and the colour Red 2G (E 128) was removed from the market.

Calls for data

For effective re-evaluations, it is critical that EFSA receives scientific data (e.g. on chemical and biological properties, toxicological studies and levels in food) from additive producers, food processors and other sources. Despite launching several general and specific calls for data on food additives since 2006, there is still an on-going shortage of data on substances used as food additives. EFSA urges producers and users of food additives to provide all their available information for the safety assessment of food additives to properly protect consumers.

EFSA’s expert Panel on Food Additives and Nutrient Sources Added to Food (ANS) carries out the re-evaluation of authorised food additives. The Panel reviews all the relevant scientific evidence on the additive including the original scientific evaluation plus data gathered from open literature and information provided following calls for data. EFSA may also issue additional calls for more specific data to complete an assessment.

Re-evaluation programme

The ANS Panel set the following criteria for scheduling the re-evaluation of the various types of additives:

  • The priorities set in the Regulation EU 257/2010 re-evaluation programme
  • The existence of new scientific evidence or technical information made available since the last evaluation that may affect the assessment of the safety of a food additive
  • The time elapsed since the last evaluation of a food additive by the European Commission’s former Scientific Committee on Food (SCF) or by EFSA
  • Cases where an ADI could not be established or a temporary ADI was established by the SCF or the basis for the ADI established by the SCF was unclear.

2017 Updated Re-evaluation of food additives: tentative work programme 2017

2016 Completed the last two re-evaluations of food colours completing this major programme. Overall, the ANS Panel re-assessed 41 food colours.

2014 Panel adopted a statement on the conceptual framework for its risk assessments of certain food additives included in the re-evaluation programme.

2013 Re-evaluation of the sweetener aspartame brought forward and completed following request from European Commission.

2012 ANS Panel adopted Strategy for the re-evaluation of food additives based on the timeline set by European Commission in Regulation EU 257/2010

Under Regulation EC 1333/2008, EFSA must re-evaluate by 2020 all food additives authorised for use in the EU prior to 20 January 2009. All substances authorised under previous legislation are allowed until their re-evaluation is complete.

Regulation EU 257/2010 establishes a programme for the re-evaluation of approved food additives, the details of which are described in Annex II. The deadlines for the re-evaluations vary by group (see table below). The timetable may be adjusted should a safety concern arise for an individual additive and/or should new data be made available requiring further review ahead of the agreed deadline.

EU  timelines for the re-evaluation of certain food additives (Regulation EU 257/2010)

Deadlines

Food additives

Status

15 Apr 2010

Food colours 1: E 123, E 151, E 154, E 155, E 180

Completed

31 Dec 2010

Food colours 2: E 100, E 127, E 131, E 132, E 133, E 142, E 150a, E 150b, E 150c, E 150d, E 161b, E 161g, E 170

Completed

31 Dec 2015

Food colours 3: E 101, E 120, E 140, E 141, E 153, E 160a, E 160b, E 160c, E 160e, E 160f, E 162, E 163, E 171, E 172, E 174, E 175

Completed

31 Dec 2015

Preservatives and antioxidants: E 200-203; E 210-215, E 218-252, E 280-285; E 300-E 321, E 586

Completed

31 Dec 2016*

Nitrates and nitrites (E 249–252)

Ongoing

31 Dec 2016

Emulsifiers, stabilisers, gelling agents: E 322, E 400-E 419, E 422-E 495, E 1401-E 1451 (priorities: E 483, E 491-495, E 431, E 432-436, E 444, E 481, E 482, E 414; E 410, E 417, E 422, E 475)

Ongoing

31 Dec 2016

Silicon dioxide: E 551

Glutamic acid and glutamates: E 620-625

Ongoing

31 Dec 2018

All remaining food additives other than colours and sweeteners (priorities: E 552, E 553a, E 553b, E 558, E 999, E 338-343, E 450-452, E 900, E 912, E 914, E 902, E 904, E 626-629, E 630-633, E 634-635, E 507-511, E 513)

Ongoing

31 Dec 2020

All remaining sweeteners  

Aspartame (E 951) completed

*Extended deadline