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Food additives

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Food additives

European legislation on additives is moving towards a single procedure for the authorisation and evaluation of additives which takes account of the latest evaluation measures for foodstuffs. The planned Regulation combines the Community lists of authorised products in a single list. Only products on this list will be allowed to be added to foods.


Proposal for a Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council, of 28 September 2006, on food additives.


The planned Regulation will bring together all types of food additive, including colours, sweeteners and others, in a single legislative act.

Food enzymes will be covered by another new Regulation (see below under "Background").

Additives will be contained in a Community list of food additives approved for use in foods, with conditions for their use (Annex II).

The planned Regulation also introduces a list of food additives approved for use in other additives and in food enzymes, with conditions for their use (Annex III).

The proposal for a Regulation lists and defines several categories of food additive, including sweeteners, colours, preservatives, antioxidants, carriers, acids, acidity regulators, anti-caking agents, anti-foaming agents and bulking agents (Annex I).

The labelling of food additives must include:

  • the information needed for identification (including the origin),
  • a description of the purity criteria.

According to the proposal, these specifications will be the subject of one or more subsequent regulations. Until then, the specific purity criteria for additives laid down in Directive 96/77/EC will continue to apply, as will the specific criteria for sweeteners and colours.

All additives in foodstuffs must be included in the labelling, in accordance with the general labelling requirements (Directive 2000/13/EC).


Additives which are genetically modified organisms (GMOs) must first of all meet the standards for GMO food and feed. They must also comply with the requirements of the planned Regulation on additives.

Single authorisation procedure and risk assessment

Authorisation applications will be subject to a common authorisation procedure for food additives, food enzymes and food flavourings [proposal for a Regulation COM(2006) 423 final].

Re-evaluation and review

Once this Regulation is adopted, the Commission will re-examine all already authorised additives with the assistance of the Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health.

At the same time, the EFSA will carry out a risk assessment of all currently authorised food additives. After consulting the EFSA, the Commission will set up an evaluation programme in order to define the needs and order of priorities for risk assessment.

Transition period

The Regulation will enter into force one year after its adoption.

However, certain parts of the Regulation concerning food additives to be used in other food additives and food enzymes (Annex III) will apply from 1 January 2011.


This proposal is part of a major reform launched by the European Commission on 18 July 2006 to simplify existing legislation on food additives, flavourings and enzymes, through three proposals covering:

  • the common authorisation procedure for additives, enzymes and flavourings [COM(2006) 423 final];
  • food enzymes [COM (2006) 425 final];
  • this proposal on additives.

For an overall view on the chemical safety of food, please consult the website of the Directorate-General for Health and Consumer Protection.

Key terms used in the act

  • Additives: substances that are not normally consumed as food themselves but are added to food intentionally for a technological purpose, such as preservation.

References and procedure


Official Journal


COM (2006) 428 final


Codecision COD/2003/0262

Last updated: 09.02.2007