Europe has brought ventilation to smoke flavourings with the adoption of new rules that aim to harmonise substantially diverse legislation in the member states which sees some countries adopting very strict authorisation procedures, while others have none at all.
Smoke flavourings - produced by condensing fresh smoke in water, after which the condensed smoke is purified - are used to impart a smoky flavour to foods such as meat, fish or snacks. As a result of the purification process, the use of smoke flavourings is generally considered to be less of a health concern than the traditional smoking process.
"I am very pleased with the adoption of these safety provisions for smoke flavours," said David Byrne, European commissioner for health and consumer protection. "The aim of this legislation is to put consumer safety first while at the same time solving the problems of diverging national rules that manufacturers currently face in marketing their products."
A wide range of different smoke flavourings is produced from smoke condensates. The Scientific Committee on Food (SCF), the committee that advises the Commission on questions regarding consumer health and food safety, concluded that the existing number of smoke flavourings are based on only a limited number of commercially available smoke condensates. As a result, the committee concluded that toxicological evaluation should focus on these condensates rather than on the multitude of derived smoke flavourings.
Based on this advice, the new regulation establishes a procedure for the safety assessment and authorisation of smoke condensates. To apply for an authorisation of a smoke condensate, the producer will need to provide detailed information on the production method as well as the further steps in the production of derived smoke flavourings.
In addition, information will have to be provided on the intended uses in or on specific food or food categories, chemical specifications, toxicological studies and validated methods for sampling and detection.
The European Food Safety Authority will step in to carry out the scientific evaluation 'according to a transparent procedure within a specific timeframe', said the Commission which added that it alone will make a decision on each application based on the outcome of this evaluation.
The new rules enter into force 20 days after their publication in the Official Journal of the European Union. Member States have to apply the new rules within the next 18 months - by the beginning of 2005.