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Health assessment of food additives

Food additives are intended for admixture to foods in order to influence their condition or to achieve specific properties or effects. The term 'food additive' is defined in the Council Directive 89/107/EEC and in the German Food and Feed Code (Lebensmittel- und Futtermittelgesetzbuch, LFGB).

In the EU the statutory provisions concerning additives refer to substances which are admixed to foods for technological purposes. This does not include, for instance, traditional foods or food ingredients and flavourings. Chemically defined flavourings are governed by separate provisions.

The additives authorized in Germany and other Member States of the EU undergo a health assessment by international and, in some cases, national expert bodies and have been accepted for use in foods. These expert bodies include the Scientific Panel on Food Additives, Flavourings, Processing Aids and Materials in Contact with Food (Panel AFC) of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), the former EU Scientific Committee on Food (SCF), the Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA) and at a national level for instance the Senate Commission for the Assessment of the Safety of Foods (SKLM) of the German Research Society (DFG). An E number is given to additives which have been assessed and accepted by SCF or Panel AFC. Scientists at BfR participate in the corresponding Working Groups and contribute to the health assessment of new additives and to the reassessment of additives which have already been authorized.

The opinions of the Scientific Panel on Food Additives, Flavourings, Processing Aids and Materials in Contact with Food (Panel AFC) of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) are available at (Science / AFC Panel / AFC Opinions).

The evaluations of the former Scientific Committee on Food (SCF) of the European Commission are available at

The evaluations of the Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA) are published in the Technical Report Series (TRS) of the WHO and in the Food Additives Series (FAS) "Toxicological evaluation of certain food additives and contaminants" which are available at Further information: and

The German statutory provisions governing the use of food additives are laid down in a German regulation on authorisation of food additives (Zusatzstoff-Zulassungsverordnung) and in a regulation on specification and purity criteria (Zusatzstoff-Verkehrsverordnung).

A German official list of food additives sorted by E-numbers and by names (version dated 3 May 2004) is available at (food safety / food additives).

In Germany applications for the authorisation of additives are to be submitted either directly to the European Commission, Health & Consumer Protection Directorate-General (DG SANCO) or to the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture which could forward them to the European Commission.

There are no binding rules concerning the test requirements. Nevertheless, due consideration should be given to the guidance document of the SCF which is available at



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