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Summaries of EU Legislation

Authorised flavourings

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Authorised flavourings

Flavourings used in foodstuffs must be mentioned in the labelling of products which contain them. The flavourings which may be used in foodstuffs and the conditions for their use are stipulated at European level.


Council Directive 88/388/EEC of 22 June 1988 on the approximation of the laws of the Member States relating to flavourings for use in foodstuffs and to source materials for their production [See amending acts].


The Directive applies to flavourings used to impart odour and/or taste to food. It also covers flavourings and foodstuffs imported into the Community.

The Member States must take the necessary measures to ensure that flavourings cannot be marketed or used unless they comply with the conditions laid down in the Directive, such as the purity criteria and restrictions on dangerous or undesirable constituents or substances.

The Directive provides for the future adoption of specific directives in respect of certain flavouring categories, such as chemically synthesised flavourings.

With the assistance of the Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health, the Commission must draw up a list of authorised substances or matter and define analytical techniques for monitoring compliance with content levels and other relevant procedures and criteria.

The Directive lays down the procedures to be followed if a Member State discovers that one of the substances listed in the Annex or a flavouring constitutes a health risk, even though it complies with the provisions of the Directive in question.

Labelling requirements governing flavourings not for sale to the final consumer are also specified. These cover such aspects as the name and address of the manufacturer or packer, the product designation and the constituent substances.

The same applies to labelling requirements governing flavourings intended for sale to the final consumer. These relate, for example, to minimum shelf life, batch indication and conditions of storage and use. This mandatory information must be easily visible, clearly legible, indelible and in a language understood by purchasers.

See the relevant SCADplus file for more information on labelling languages.

Labelling of flavourings

The labelling of flavourings must follow the specifications of the general legislation on labelling in Directive 2000/13/EC:

  • the labelling of foods which contain flavourings must include the word "flavouring" followed by a more specific designation or a description of the flavouring;
  • the term "natural flavouring" or any equivalent term must appear in the labelling if the flavouring is obtained directly from a substance or preparation found in animal or plant material. If the flavouring is obtained by synthesis but is chemically identical to the natural flavouring, the labelling must state that the flavouring is identical to the natural flavouring.

The conditions governing the use of the word "natural" in labelling will be amended by a new legislative act which will repeal Directive 88/388/EEC (see below under "Related Acts", proposal for a Regulation COM(2006) 427 final).



Entry into force

Deadline for transposition in the Member States

Official Journal

Directive 88/388/EEC



OJ L 184 of 15.7.1988

Amending act(s)

Entry into force

Deadline for transposition in the Member States

Official Journal

Directive 91/71/EEC


01.01.1994 (ban on the sale of non-compliant products)

OJ L 42 of 15.2.1991

Regulation (EC) No 1882/2003 [adoption: codecision COD/2001/0314]



OJ L 284 of 31.10.2003


Proposal for a Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council of 28 July 2006 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 [COM(2006) 427 final -- Not published in the Official Journal]. This Regulation will restrict the use of the word "natural" to substances and preparations obtained directly from animal or plant material. It removes the reference to flavourings that are identical to natural flavourings, a term which could confuse consumers.

Proposal for a Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council of 27 July 2006 establishing a common authorisation procedure for food additives, food enzymes and food flavourings [COM(2006) 423 final - Not published in the Official Journal]. This Regulation will establish a single procedure for the authorisation of food flavourings, additives and enzymes. The procedure proposed is simpler than the present one.

As regards additives, it allows manufacturers to submit an application for authorisation directly to the Commission and reduces the application processing time. It also provides for the updating of the list of authorised additives.

The Regulation will apply the risk evaluation framework introduced by Regulation (EC) No 178/2002 to additives, flavourings and enzymes.

Regulation (EC) No 2065/2003 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 10 November 2003 on smoke flavourings used or intended for use in or on foods [Official Journal L 309 of 26.11.2003]. Amended by Regulation (EC) No 627/2006 [OJ L 109 of 22.4.2006]. Smoke flavourings are produced by condensing fresh smoke in water to produce a smoke condensate which is then purified. Smoke flavourings are often used instead of fresh smoke to give a smoked flavour to foodstuffs such as meat, fish or snacks.

The Regulation establishes an evaluation procedure for the safety and authorisation of primary smoke condensates for use as such in or on foods and/or in the production of derived smoke flavourings.

To this end it states that primary smoke condensates that have been evaluated may be included in a positive list of products authorised to the exclusion of all others in the Community. It restricts the validity of authorisations to ten years, following which they must be renewed.

When submitting an application for authorisation of a primary product, the applicant must provide detailed information on the production method as well as on the further steps in the production of derived smoke flavourings, intended uses in or on specific food or food categories, chemical specifications, toxicological studies and validated methods for sampling and detection of the primary product and derived smoke flavourings.

Applications will be evaluated by the European Food Safety Authority and it will be for the Commission to propose a decision concerning the measures to be taken in the event of a risk.

Regulation (EC) No 2232/96 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 28 October 1996 laying down a Community procedure for flavouring substances used or intended for use in or on foodstuffs.

Council Directive 89/107/EEC of 21 December 1988 on the approximation of the laws of the Member States concerning food additives authorised for use in foodstuffs intended for human consumption [Official Journal L 40 of 11.2.1989].

See also

For more detailed information concerning the European Commission's policy on flavourings, please consult the Internet pages of the Directorate-General for Health and Consumer Protection.

Last updated: 09.02.2007