Re-evaluation of food colours EFSA completes major programme
From jellies to jams, from desserts to drinks, food colours are added to many foods to make up for colour loss, enhance naturally occurring colours or add colour to foods that would otherwise look colourless. As with all food additives, only colours whose safety has been assessed by EFSA can be authorised for use by EU risk managers. With the recent adoption of two opinions on annatto extracts and titanium dioxide, the Authority reached an important milestone, completing the re-evaluation of all food colours authorised before 2009.
Ruud Woutersen, Vice-Chair of EFSA's Panel on Food Additives and Nutrient Sources Added to Food (ANS) and Chair of the Working Group tasked with the re-evaluation of food colours, explains the background, challenges and impact of this major work programme.
Why was this work carried out?
Many food additives were initially evaluated and approved a long time ago. To bring assessments up to date, the European Commission asked EFSA to re-evaluate, by 2020, all additives authorised before 20 January 2009, taking into account any new evidence. Based on EFSA's scientific advice, the European Commission and Member States then decide whether to change the conditions of use for an additive or, if needed, remove it from the EU list of authorised food additives to protect consumers. As food colours were among the first additives to be authorised, their re-evaluation has been prioritised.
What did the work involve?
Overall, the ANS Panel re-assessed 41 food colours. We reviewed all available, relevant scientific studies as well as data on toxicity and human exposure, from which we drew conclusions regarding the safety of the substance. As part of the evaluations, the Panel established, when possible – i.e., when sufficient information was available – an Acceptable Daily Intake (ADI) for each substance. A first batch of six re-evaluations was delivered in 2009, and the re-evaluation of most food colours was completed by 2012. In between then and now, the Panel also continued and finalised the re-evaluation of many other food additives.