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Flavouring substances

Apart from some preliminary studies on emulsifiers and stabilisers, colouring matters and preservatives used in foodstuffs, the Council of Europe Partial Agreement's main achievement in this field concerns flavouring substances. It was in fact a pioneer in the elaboration of lists of flavouring substances acceptable for use in food, begun over twenty years ago.

Flavouring substances and natural sources of flavourings (“Blue Book”)

These lists were published, until the third edition of 1981, in a single book entitled "Flavouring substances and natural sources of flavourings" (more commonly known as the "Blue Book"). The fourth edition is divided into two volumes. Volume I of the fourth edition, which was published in 1992, concerns exclusively the toxicological evaluation of chemically-defined flavouring substances. The Committee of Experts on flavouring substances has engaged in a major toxicological evaluation of the safety-in-use of over 600 natural flavouring source materials, the conclusions of which will be published in the second volume. In view of the time required to complete this large task, it was agreed that reports should be published at regular intervals covering the source materials so far evaluated. A 1st report Volume II containing 101 source materials was published in 2000.

A 2nd report on natural sources of flavourings, containing about source materials will be published by the end of this year.

The 1st report on active principles (constituents of toxicological concern) contained in natural sources of flavouring (October 2005) was published in 2006

The chemically-defined flavouring substances are classified according to their chemical structure. Within each chemical group, the substances are listed by their principal name and ascending Council of Europe number. The 896 substances are coded into substances which could be added to food for human consumption without hazard to public health and flavouring substances temporarily acceptable in foodstuffs, that is to say, those for which there did not exist enough toxicological data for a definite safety-in-use assessment.

A number of substances having flavouring properties and submitted by industry could not be evaluated at all since insufficient toxicological and/or technological information was available to assess their safety-in-use.

An agreement was reached in 1990 between the Council of Europe and the International Organisation of Flavour Industry (IOFI) to ensure the confidentiality of certain data submitted for evaluation during five years prior to the publication of these data. This agreement is designed to encourage submission of new artificial and nature-identical flavouring substances by a particular manufacturer and which are only known and used by that manufacturer.

Smoke flavours, thermal process flavourings, etc

A specific set of Guidelines for the transmission of smoke flavours to food was published in 1992. The guidelines, intended for manufacturers and control authorities, include proposals for the establishment of limits for potentially toxic smoke flavours and contain requirements to ensure that the necessary safety standards for the protection of the consumer are respected. In parallel a brochure was published in 1992 aiming at informing the consumer on the smoking process and health aspect of using smoke flavourings as food ingredients. It also gives guidance on ways to minimise the possible formation of substances of danger to health .

The emergence of biotechnologies in the flavouring industry has highlighted the need to make recommendations concerning conditions for the production and use of the flavourings thus produced. Accordingly, Guidelines for flavouring preparations produced by enzymatic or microbiological processes were published in 1994.

Guidelines on thermal process flavourings, which are prepared for their flavouring properties by heating food ingredients, were published in 1995.

Furthermore, Guidelines for flavouring preparations produced by plant tissue culture were published in 1998.

There is close co-operation between the Council of Europe Committee of Experts on flavouring substances, IOFI and representatives of flavour manufacturers in Europe and the United States. Hearings between the Council of Europe experts and representatives of flavour manufacturers are organised frequently on the above-mentioned activities.

Meeting records of the Committee of Experts on Flavouring Substances

51st session (Strasbourg, 8-11 April 2003)

52nd session (Strasbourg, 18-21 October 2004)

53rd session (Strasbourg, 12-14 April 2005)

54th session (Strasbourg, 11 – 12 October 2005)