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New EU Flavoring Legislation Seems Open for Interpretation

Posted: October 30, 2007

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Ambiguity in rules: This is where the ambiguity begins. Whether or not a material needs evaluation depends to some extent on the definition of "food." This isn’t specifically defined, but recital 14 states that “material for which there is significant evidence of flavor use is considered food even if the source has never been used for food and does not need to be evaluated.” Hardinge explained that using this definition, rosewood and strawberry leaves would not need to be evaluated or approved. 

There is more uncertainty when it comes to articles 12–14 on business-to-business labeling. The requirements are somewhat similar to existing ones; however, the definition of "natural" has caused some concern. According to the proposed legislation, the term "natural" may only be used in a sales description if the flavoring is made up of flavoring preparations and/or natural flavoring substances only. This means that process flavorings and smoke flavorings are never natural. Currently, a natural flavor has to be 100% natural, with 90% coming from the food it is intended to taste like, and 10% from another food source. Both the Parliament and Council wish to change this, but they haven’t seen eye-to-eye on what it should be. Parliament proposes it change to 95-5, while Council believes it should stay 90-10, but that the 10% can’t taste of what the 90% is. (This is of particular interest, for example, in vanilla flavors.)

The proposed legislation has added the WONF (With Other Natural Flavors) category for the first time in the EU. This says that “natural X flavoring with other natural flavorings has to contain enough X to be easily recognizable.” Once again, the term "easily recognizable" is left open to interpretation.

The term "natural flavoring" can only be used if the flavoring component is derived from different source materials and where a reference to the source materials would not reflect their flavor or taste. Hardinge’s example of this was a BBQ flavoring.

A major challenge for the industry appears in Articles 16 and 17, in which the EU would require food business operators to report to the Commission the annual amounts of flavoring substances added to foods in the EU and the use levels for each food category. Hardinge explained that this is an impossible thing to ask of the industry, since companies purchasing flavors do not know how exactly they are made, and the flavor firm does not know how exactly their products are used in end products. Thankfully, Hardinge is hopeful this will change.