Select Committee on European Scrutiny Thirty-Seventh Report

15 Safety controls over food additives



COM(06) 428

+ ADDS 1-2

Draft Regulation on food additives

Legal baseArticle 95EC; co-decision; QMV
Document originated28 July 2006
Deposited in Parliament22 August 2006
DepartmentFood Standards Agency
Basis of considerationEM of 29 August 2006
Previous Committee ReportNone
To be discussed in CouncilNo date set
Committee's assessmentPolitically important
Committee's decisionNot cleared; further information awaited


15.1 The general principles governing the use of food additives within the Community are currently set out in Council Directive 89/107/EEC. This Directive is complemented by three further measures — Directives 94/35/EC on sweeteners for use in foodstuffs, 94/36/EC on colours for use in foodstuffs, and 95/2/EC on food additives other than colours and sweeteners — which lay down the list of authorised additives and the conditions for their use. In its White Paper on Food Safety,[36] the Commission indicated that it intended to update and simplify these measures, and its proposals for doing so are now set out in the current document.

The current proposal

15.2 More specifically, the Commission proposes that there should in future be a single instrument. As at present, this would require food additives to be subject to a safety evaluation by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), leading to their inclusion on a Community positive list. However, whereas changes to that list currently have to be approved by the Council and European Parliament (and hence give rise to delays arising from the lengthy co-decision process), the Commission is proposing it should in future be delegated the power to make such changes, subject to individual approvals having to receive the necessary level of support from Member States within the Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health. These changes would be accompanied by a number of additional safeguards, such as controls over the use of all additives in additives,[37] and a requirement that any additive consisting of, containing, or produced from a genetically modified organism (GMO) would first need to be authorised under the Regulation on genetically modified food and feed.[38] Also, the EFSA would carry out a re-evaluation of all additives (rather than, as at present, only if there is evidence of a risk to public health), and it would review the technological aspects of all current authorisations.

The Government's view

15.3 In her Explanatory Memorandum of 29 August 2006, the Minister of State for Public Health at the Department of Health (Caroline Flint) says that the proposal is welcome in that it will lead to the rationalisation of the current complex legislation governing food additives. In particular, she suggests that the "fast track" procedure for amendments to the legislation would be beneficial to both industry and consumers, and that the proposed additional safeguards are welcome in the interests of consumer protection and choice.

15.4 The Minister's Explanatory Memorandum is accompanied by a partial Regulatory Impact Assessment, which will provide the basis for the Government's consultation exercise on the proposal (and which will be updated, as necessary). The Assessment says that industry has welcomed the simplification of this legislation and the proposed "fast track" process, but that it has expressed concerns about the costs of the EFSA carrying out a re-evaluation of all currently approved additives, which it suggests could have major cost implications. Also, industry has in the past been reluctant to meet these costs, resulting in the withdrawal from use of additives for which complete data is not available. There is concern that this situation could arise as a consequence of the EFSA review, resulting in the need to reformulate products using alternatives. However, without knowing which additives may be affected, it is not possible to identify the specific sectors most likely to be affected.


15.5 In principle, the steps proposed here — including the delegation to the Commission of the power to amend the list of approved additives — appear sensible, and in line with the practice adopted in other comparable areas. That said, we note the concerns which have arisen over the potential cost (and other) implications of the proposal to re-evaluate all currently approved additives, and for that reason, we think it would be sensible to await the outcome of the Government's consultation on the proposal, and any updated Regulatory Impact Assessment, before taking a final view. In the meantime, therefore, we are not clearing the document.

36   (20875) 5761/00; see HC 23-x (1999-2000), para 2 (1 March 2000). Back

37   These safeguards currently apply only on a limited basis, for example to additives used in flavourings. Back

38   Regulation (EC) No. 1829/2003 OJ No. L268, 18.10.03, p.1. Back

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