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Natural flavours ‘identified in nature’ to have major industry impact – report

By Oliver Nieburg , 02-Jan-2012
Last updated on 02-Jan-2012 at 14:50 GMT

Natural flavours ‘identified in nature’ to have major industry impact – report

EC regulations implemented last year that require natural flavouring substances to be identical to something found in nature will greatly impact the industry, according to a report assessing the new regulation.

Flavouring Regulation 1334/2008 entered full force in January last year and replaced Flavouring Directive 88/388/EEC. The new regulation, unlike its predecessor is directly applicable, meaning it is not for member states to legislate. Though the regulation has been in place for almost a year, the industry is still getting to grips with the new rules.

A study, conducted by Jan Demyttenaere and published in the Flavour and Fragrance Journal , assessed some of the key differences between the new and old regulations.

According to Demyttenaere, one of the major changes was a redefinition of what constitutes ‘natural’.

Identified in nature

Demyttenaere said that one of the most important amendments came in the last line of article 3.2 (c) in the new regulation defining a ‘natural flavouring substance’.

It states: “Natural flavouring substances correspond to substances that are naturally present and have been identified in nature.”

Demyttenaere said that this meant that is would be no longer sufficient to produce a flavouring in a natural way, now, it must also be identical to something present in nature.

He gave the example of a flavouring substances produced by enzymatic or microbial processes from material of vegetable origin, which, while a natural process could not be said to be identified in nature.

“This is to avoid that a substance that has never been identified in nature before (and is not naturally occurring), such as ethylvanillin, would be labelled as a ‘natural flavouring substance’, even if today a (new) ‘natural process’ has been discovered for its production that was not described before,” said Demyttenaere.

According to EFSA a flavouring is ‘identified in nature’ when “it has been identified in materials of plant, animal, microbiological, or mineral origin, and/or it has been identified in food in the raw state or processed or partly processed for human consumption”.

Wider implications

Demyttenaere said the new regulations would have a major impact on trade and use in commerce of these essential oils and extracts, not only in the European Union (EU) but also internationally.

Unlike the EU, in the US, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not specifically addressed the issue of what it means to be natural, leading to a string of lawsuits disputing all-natural claims made on food and drink products.

“The labelling issue is especially important because of the impact of consumer’s behaviour in relation to food: consumers prefer natural flavourings above synthetic ones,” said Demyttenaere.

“Good and pragmatic definitions in the Flavouring Regulation which have replaced the former Flavouring Directive are essential to ensure that all natural raw materials such as essential oils and extracts can be labelled as natural,” he continued.

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