The second reading by the European Parliament (EP) of the European Commission’s proposals for regulations establishing a common authorisation procedure for food additives, food enzymes and flavourings for use in food, took place just before the summer break.

The EP’s final report on food additives states that additives such as sweeteners, colourings, preservatives, antioxidants and emulsifiers may only be authorised if they are safe for consumers; there is a technological need for their use; their use does not mislead the consumer; and if it has advantages and benefits to consumers. Similarly, enzymes used to improve texture, appearance and nutritional value will be authorised only if they do not mislead the consumer as to the freshness, nature and quality of the products.

MEPs rejected the recommendation of its Environment Committee and calls from 42 organisations across Europe for a ban on bright colouring additives, which studies have shown may cause hyperactivity in some children. Instead, MEPs agreed that foods containing such colours must be labelled not only with the relevant E number, but also with words stating that the products ‘may have an adverse effect on activity and attention in children’.

In relation to the use of nanotechnology in food additives, the draft regulation now states that a new safety evaluation and application for authorisation must be completed before it can be placed on the market if the production process of an already approved additive is changed, or the starting materials, or its particle size.

A second reading of the proposals by the European Council is pending.