EFSA issues food additive info ahead of Codex

By Anthony Fletcher

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Food additives European union Codex alimentarius

Europe's food safety authority has issued information on current
food additive laws ahead of the upcoming Codex meeting in China.

The 39 th Session of the Codex Committee on Food Additives (CCFA), which will meet in Beijing from 24 to 28 April, will discuss proposed amendments made at the last meeting and tackle current issues within the sector.

CCFA was established to set or endorse maximum levels for individual food additives, prepare priority lists of food additives for risk assessment and assign functional classes to individual food additives.

Other aims include recommending specifications of identity and purity for food additives for adoption by the Commission; considering methods of analysis for the determination of additives in food; and considering and elaborating standards or codes for related subjects such as the labeling of food additives when sold as such.

According to EFSA, food additives are substances added intentionally to foodstuffs to perform certain technological functions, for example to colour, to sweeten or to preserve.

In European Community legislation , food additives are defined as "any substance not normally consumed as a food in itself and not normally used as a characteristic ingredient of food whether or not it has nutritive value, the intentional addition of which to food for a technological purpose results in it or its by-products becoming directly or indirectly a component of such foods".

Common additives include antioxidants, colours, emulsifiers, stabilisers, gelling agents and thickeners, flavour enhancers, preservatives and sweeteners.

In Europe food additives are labelled on food packaging by an E number (such as E415) or by their chemical name.

Under European legislation, additives must be explicitly authorised at European level before they can be used in foods.

Before authorisation they must undergo a safety evaluation for using the additive as intended.

The legislation consists of a framework directive covering additives in general and three specific directives on three categories of additive - colours , sweeteners and other food additives - which list the permitted additives and their conditions of use.

All authorised additives also have to comply with approved purity criteria, which are laid down in three other directives.

EFSA has three main activities in the area of food additives.

It carries out safety evaluations of new food additives before they can be authorised for use in the EU, responds to ad-hoc requests from the European Commission to review certain food additives and carries out a systematic re-evaluation of all authorised food additives in the EU.

The Codex Committee on Food Additives (CCFA) was formed last year as a division of the Codex Alimentarius, or food code.

Established in 1963 by two United Nations organisations – the Food and Agriculture Organisation and the World Health Organisation –

Codex is designed to be a global point of reference for food processors, government agencies and consumers.

While Codex does not have the same force of law as a EU directive or national legislation, Codex limits are used as a reference point for countries that are looking at revising or creating legislation.

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