I wonder if renaming additives as food improvement agents will reduce the pressure for 'clean' labels we continue to see in the UK prepared foods market. There is undoubtedly a lack of understanding about the safety of food additives and it would be a positive step for consumers to obtain reassurance.
I have written little about the European developments regarding additive controls during 2007, but as things are hotting up now it seemed the time was right to focus on the topic.
For those of you who have not been tracking this area, last year the European Commission published proposals to consolidate, clarify and update current legal controls for additives and flavourings and introduce new European wide controls on enzymes.
The package contains a total of four regulations which will revoke the existing legislation, but in many instances carry forward a similar set of labelling requirements, permissions and restrictions.
The biggest challenges would appear to face the flavourings industry with the potential for restriction on carriers for flavourings and limitations for natural flavours.
Natural flavours are in demand for 'clean' products and to allow positive marketing claims. With the possible need for 95% of the flavouring component to be from a named source (where stated) price rises seem inevitable for yet another food ingredient.
Environmental concerns are also introduced as criteria for approval of food additives and we see references to the environment feeding through into most new legislation.
Existing controls preclude the use of food additives and flavourings from misleading consumers and this is clarified in the proposals. Misleading the consumer includes factors such as naturalness and quality of ingredients.
Expect to hear more in 2008!
Kath Veal is international regulatory team leader at Leatherhead Food International