Select Committee on European Scrutiny Thirty-Seventh Report


16 Controls on the use of flavourings in foodstuffs

(27752)

12182/06

COM(06) 427

+ ADDS 1-2

Draft Regulation on flavourings and certain food ingredients with flavouring properties for use in and on foods and amending Council Regulation (EEC) No 1576/89, Council Regulation (EEC) No 1601/91, Regulation (EC) No 2232/96 and Directive 2000/13/EC

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

Background

16.1 Community legislation on the use of flavourings in food and on the materials used for their production was first introduced in Council Directive 88/388/EEC.[39] This provides definitions for flavourings, flavouring substances, flavouring preparations, process flavouring and smoke flavouring; restricts the addition and presence of certain substances in flavourings and/or foods to which flavourings have been added; and provides rules for the labelling of flavourings sold to food manufacturers or direct to consumers. According to the Commission, the Directive now needs to be substantially amended to clarify its scope, and to take into account relevant technological and scientific developments as well as the adoption of more recent Community legislation laying down the general principles and requirements of food law.

The current proposal

16.2 The Commission has therefore put forward this document, which would repeal the earlier legislation in this area (including Council Directive 88/388/EEC), and:

  • introduce general criteria and safety requirements for the use of flavourings and food ingredients with flavouring properties in and on foods;
  • establish Community procedures for the evaluation by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) of certain flavourings, food ingredients with flavouring properties, their source materials, and for the authorisation of their use in or on foods;
  • introduce provisions for the labelling of flavourings sold as such to food manufacturers or to the final consumer, and for the liability of food business operators as regards these products;
  • establish maximum levels in particular foods for certain undesirable substances which are present in flavourings and food ingredients with flavouring properties;
  • refine existing definitions of flavourings covered under Directive 88/388/EEC to allow the inclusion of those produced by new technologies, and introduce two new categories;
  • specify the traditional food preparation processes and appropriate physical processes by which natural flavouring substances and flavouring preparations are obtained; and
  • require new food flavourings which consist of, contain, or are produced from a genetically modified organism (GMO) to first be evaluated under Regulation (EC) No 1829/2003 on GM food and feed.

16.3 Apart from this last provision on GMOs, the document would make three main changes as compared with the position at present. First, although the scope of Council Directive 88/388/EEC is restricted to flavourings, the provision establishing maximum levels for undesirable substances is interpreted differently by the Member States (some applying it to foods which contain only flavourings, whilst others apply it to foods which contain both flavourings and food ingredients with flavouring properties): in future, this ambiguity would be avoided.

16.4 Secondly, Council Directive 88/388/EEC defines three categories of flavouring substances — "natural" (those obtained by appropriate physical processes from material of vegetable animal origin), "natural identical" (those chemically synthesized but otherwise identical to substances produced from natural material), and "artificial" (those chemically synthesized, but not chemically identical to substances obtained naturally). Since the term "natural identical" is confusing for consumers, the proposal would restrict use of the description "natural" to flavourings which are exclusively obtained from natural sources. It would also introduce a new category ("Other flavourings").

16.5 Thirdly, the labelling provisions would be amended to specify more clearly the source of preparations which may be described as "natural".

The Government's view

16.6 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 would appear to benefit UK stakeholders, and that it will maintain (and, in some cases, increase) consumer protection, help to provide a level playing field and allow UK manufacturers to benefit from increased trade as a result of harmonisation. The Explanatory Memorandum is accompanied by a short partial Regulatory Impact Assessment, which has been used as the basis for the Government's consultation exercise on the proposal, and which will be updated in the light of comments on it, including those from industry on the potential costs.

Conclusion

16.7 Though this is a complex and highly technical area, which makes it difficult to identify the precise implications of what is proposed, much of this document essentially updates and clarifies the existing Community legislation on flavourings, and, in general, it is supported by the Government and (we understand) the industry. That said, we think it right at this stage simply to report the proposal to the House, and to consider it further when the results of the Government's consultation exercise are known.





39   Council Directive 88/388/EEC. OJ No. L184, 15.7.88, p.61. Back


 
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