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The central goal of the European Commission's food safety policy is to ensure a high level of protection of human health and consumers' interests in relation to food, whilst ensuring the effective functioning of the internal market. For more information go to DG Health and Consumer Protection site.

EDC News: EU and Food Additives

EU legislation defines additives as any substance not normally consumed as a food in itself and not normally used as a characteristic ingredient of food. It also defines 26 "technological purposes" such as:

  • Colours – they are used to add or restore colour in a food;

  • Preservatives – these are added to prolong the shelf-life of foods by protecting them against micro-organisms;

  • Antioxidants – they are substances, which prolong the shelf-life of foods by protecting them against oxidation (i.e. fat rancidity and colour changes);

  • Flour treatment agents – they are added to flour or to dough to improve its baking quality.

The safety and authorisation of all food additives are assessed by the Scientific Committee on Food (SCF) and/or the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). To be authorised a food additive must meet the following conditions:

  • It does not, on the basis of the available scientific evidence, pose risks to the health of the consumer at the level of the proposed use;

  • There is a reasonable technological need that cannot be achieved by other means;

  • Its use does not mislead and must have benefits for the consumer.

When authorising food additives other relevant factors may also be considered. These could include ethics, traditions, the environment, etc.

EU legislation states that food additives must have advantages and benefits for the consumer. Therefore, they have to serve one or more of the following purposes:

  • Preserve the nutritional quality of the food;

  • Provide necessary ingredients or constituents for foods manufactured for groups of consumers with special dietary needs;

  • Enhance the quality or stability of a food or improving its organoleptic properties, provided that the consumer is not misled;

  • Aid the manufacture, processing, preparation, treatment, packing, transport or storage of food, including food additives, food enzymes and food flavourings, provided that the food additive is not used to disguise faulty raw materials or cover up unhygienic practices.

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