Approved by the US in 2002 as well as Australia and New Zealand the intensity sweetener has yet to achieve approval by member states.
In May 2003, the European Commission asked a panel of scientists, under the umbrella of the European Food Safety Authority, to investigate the case of neotame.
Due in December 2004, an opinion has yet to be adopted by the scientific panel working on food additives, flavourings, processing aids and materials in contact with food (AFC).
Depending on its food application, neotame has a sweetness potency of 7000-13000 times that of sugar.
A dipeptide methyl ester derivative, the ingredient is a free-flowing, water soluble, white crystalline powder that is heat stable, and can be used as a tabletop sweetener as well as on its own, or in combintion with other sweeteners in food formulations.
Examples of uses for which neotame has been approved include baked goods, non-alcoholic beverages (including soft drinks), chewing gum, frozen desserts, and jams and jellies.
Also at the meeting today the EFSA panel will cover two other food additives: Propan-2-ol and a specific enzyme preparation based on thrombin, fibrinogen derived from bovines and/or pigs as a food additive for reconstituting food.
Independent scientists working within an independent European structure, and providing risk assessment opinions, is the aim behind Europe's first food safety body established a couple of years ago.
Essentially EFSA rests on four pillars - the management board composed of 14 members appointed by the Council of Ministers in consultation with the European Parliament, the executive director Geoffrey Podger, the Advisory Forum composed of Member States, and the scientific committee and eight panels.
Open to scientists around the world, EFSA selected experts for the panels in 2003, the composition of which are, in fact, largely European.