Following a proposal from the European Commission to allow the use of two new intense sweeteners - sucralose and an aspartame-acesulfame - the European Competitiveness Council gave the all clear on Monday, reaching a political agreement that supports the Commission move. But tighter rules on the use of the sweetener cyclamate were also on the agenda.
Commenting on the agreement, David Byrne, Commissioner for Health and Consumer Protection, thanked the Council for its support: "As with all proposals to authorise food additives, the Commission's proposals on sweeteners are based on sound scientific safety assessments and they are made in the interest of consumer protection."
The authorisation and use of intense sweeteners, like any other food additive, is harmonised at EU level, which means that the same rules apply in all Member States.
In accordance with EU legislation, food additives can only be permitted in the EU if they are safe, necessary from the technological point of view and if they are useful for the consumer.
The Commission proposal followed an opinion by the Scientific Committee on Food (SCF) - an independent committee that advises the Commission on questions concerning consumer health and food safety, and sets Acceptable Daily Intake (ADI) levels - that gave the all clear to the sweeteners.
The ADI is defined as the amount of a food additive that a human can ingest daily over a lifetime without incurring any appreciable health risks.
The SCF also re-evaluated the sweetener cyclamate. Although the new epidemiological data revealed no indications of harmful effects of cyclamate on humans, scientific evidence showed that the conversion rate of cyclamate in the body is higher than previously thought, so the SCF decided to lower the ADI for this substance from 11 to 7 mg/kg bodyweight.
The Commission proposal to ban its use in food categories like chewing gums and ice cream and to reduce it in soft drinks seeks to ensure that the intake of cyclamates stays below the revised ADI.
The Council political agreement follows the Commission amended proposal in deciding to reduce the use of this sweetener in soft drinks even further and to extend this reduction to juice and milk-based drinks.
Having reached a political agreement this week, the Council will formally adopt a common position at a later meeting. The proposal will then have to go back to the European Parliament for a second reading.