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Summaries of EU Legislation

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Safe food additives for high consumer protection

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Safe food additives for high consumer protection


Regulation (EC) No 1333/2008 — food additives



It replaces previous EU legislation by bringing together into one legal act all types of food additives*.

It provides lists of:

approved items;

conditions on their use and labelling.

It simplifies the procedure for their authorisation.


Only additives that the EU has approved may be sold and used in foods according to the conditions specified.

To feature on the EU’s approved list, a food additive must not pose any health risks or mislead consumers. It must meet a reasonable need that cannot be achieved in any other way.

The additive must provide benefits for consumers. These include:

preserving food’s nutritional quality;

helping in its manufacture, processing, preparation, treatment, packing, transport or storage;

meeting special dietary needs.

Specific conditions apply to additives for sweeteners or colouring.

Additives should be used at the lowest level needed to achieve the desired effect. This level must take account of an acceptable daily intake and the needs of special groups of consumers.

Additives should not, as a rule, be used in unprocessed foods or foods for infants and young children, except where specifically provided for.

Additives, whether for sale to the final consumer or not, must meet clear labelling requirements, such as providing the name and/or E-number (for instance, sunset yellow colouring is E 110).

The legislation does not apply to the following substances, unless they are also used:

as processing aids, i.e. a substance intentionally used to process raw materials;

to protect plants and plant products;

as nutrients and added to food; or

to treat water.


Most evaluations of additives date back to the 1980s and 1990s. They are now being re-evaluated and the process is expected to be completed by 2020. This may lead the European Commission to propose changes to the current conditions of use or to remove some items from the approved list.


* Food additives: substances used in foods for different reasons such as to sweeten them, provide colour or prolong shelf life. Their use is subject to EU rules to ensure a high level of human health and consumer protection.


Regulation (EC) No 1333/2008 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 16 December 2008 on food additives (OJ L 354, 31.12.2008, pp. 16-33)

The successive amendments to the annexes to Regulation (EC) No 1333/2008 have been incorporated in the original text. This consolidated version is of documentary value only.


Commission Regulation (EU) No 257/2010 of 25 March 2010 setting up a programme for the re-evaluation of approved food additives in accordance with Regulation (EC) No 1333/2008 of the European Parliament and of the Council on food additives (OJ L 80 of 26.3.2010, pp. 19-27)

Commission Regulation (EU) No 231/2012 of 9 March 2012 laying down specifications for food additives listed in Annexes II and III to Regulation (EC) No 1333/2008 of the European Parliament and of the Council (OJ L 83, 22.3.2012, pp. 1-295). See consolidated version.

last update 12.11.2015