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Authorised food additives: general scheme

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Authorised food additives: general scheme

Since 1990, all authorised food additives and their conditions of use have been harmonised at European level, in order to protect consumer health and guarantee the free movement of foodstuffs in the European Union (EU).


Council Directive 89/107/EEC of 21 December 1988 on the approximation of the laws of the Member States concerning food additives for use in foodstuffs intended for human consumption. [See amending acts].


Directive 89/107/EEC

The scope of the Directive covers food additives used as ingredients during the manufacture or preparation of food and which are part of the finished product and listed in one of the categories in Annex I (a "food additive" being any substance not normally consumed as a food itself, the intentional addition of which results in its becoming an ingredient).

The only substances which may be used as food additives are those included in the approved lists and then only under the conditions of use mentioned in those lists (e.g. preservatives, emulsifiers, sweeteners, raising agents).

The Council draws up:

  • a list of substances the use of which is authorised to the exclusion of all others;
  • a list of foodstuffs to which these substances may be added and the conditions under which they may be added, and restrictions which may be imposed in respect of technological purposes;
  • rules concerning substances used as solvents including purity criteria where necessary.

A special procedure permitting the Commission to legislate after consulting the Standing Committee on Foodstuffs applies to:

  • the drawing up of purity criteria;
  • where necessary, the methods of analysis needed to verify that the purity criteria are satisfied;
  • where necessary, the procedure for taking samples and the methods for the qualitative and quantitative analysis of food additives in and on foodstuffs;
  • other rules necessary to ensure compliance with the rule that only listed additives may be used.

Provisions for action by Member States on listed additives even if the additives which are considered for specific reasons to carry a health risk comply with the Directive.

Conditions for provisional authorisation by a Member State for the marketing and use on its territory of unlisted additives belonging to the categories listed in Annex 1 to the Directive in the light of scientific and technical progress, e.g. maximum limit of two years' circulation.

Information requirements on labelling and packaging of additives for sale, for the consumer or for the manufacture of foodstuffs.

Directive 94/34/EC

By Directive 94/34/EC Member States are authorised to prohibit the use of certain additives in foodstuffs produced using traditional methods on their territories, provided the prohibition existed on 1 January 1992 and that the free movement of goods is not affected.

However, Member States are required to permit on their territory the production of non-traditional products in conformity with the Directives on additives.



Entry into force - Date of expiry

Deadline for transposition in the Member States

Official Journal

Directive 89/107/EEC



OJ L 40 of 11.2.1989

Amending act(s)

Entry into force

Deadline for transposition in the Member States

Official Journal

Directive 94/34/EC



OJ L 237 of 10.9.1994

Regulation No 1882/2003 [adoption: codecision COD/2004/0237]



OJ L 284 of 31.10.2003


Proposal of 28 July 2006 for a Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on food additives [COM(2006) 428 final - Not published in the Official Journal].

The future Regulation will harmonise all authorised additives added to food in one Community list, by including colours and sweeteners. It will also establish a common authorisation and evaluation procedure.

The Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health shall examine all additives which are already authorised and any new ones, and the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) shall carry out a risk assessment on these products. To authorise a new additive or renew an existing authorisation, the assessment should show that the product is safe, technologically necessary, of benefit to the consumer and that the consumer is not being misled by its use.

The future Regulation will repeal all the provisions in force concerning additives (see below).

The rules on additives are based on:

Decision No 292/97/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 19 December 1996 on the maintenance of national laws prohibiting the use of certain additives in the production of certain specific foodstuffs [Official Journal L 48 of 19.02.1997]

This Decision authorises certain Member States to apply legislation prohibiting the use of certain additives in the production, within their territory, of particular foodstuffs which are regarded as traditional. These exceptions do not contradict the provisions relating to agricultural products and foodstuffs as traditional specialities guaranteed.


Report [COM(2001) 542 final - Not published in the Official Journal]

Report from the Commission of 1 October 2001 on Dietary Food Additive Intake in the European Union.

Last updated: 25.04.2007