The regulation forms part of the Food Improvement Agents Package (FIAP), which was adopted towards the end of 2008 and entered into force on 31 December with publication in the Official Journal of the EU.
Steve Morgan, managing director of flavour firm Synergy, told FoodNavigator.com that although although there are some important changes, especially in the hot area of natural flavourings, there is no need to leap about and take immediate action.
At the same time, discussions over the new regulation have been “going on for so many years that everyone has relaxed”.
When it comes to just what action does need to be taken and when, Morgan said: “We need to be good at communicating. Industry is not very clear about getting the message out.”
Significance of the regulation
Morgan said that, broadly speaking, he is reassured by the new law as it “firms up the fact that companies should not mislead consumers”.
The over-riding point is that health and safety is paramount. It also brings EU consistency, which is helpful as “differences in national interpretations can be problematic”.
“The level of change is well managed,” said Morgan.
No more NI
One of the most important aspects of the new law is that it brings a level of clarity and constancy on the term ‘natural’, and does away with ‘nature-identical’ and ‘synthetic’. Non-natural flavouring are now just ‘flavouring substances’.
This is one area in which Synergy, for its part, is starting to take action, since it needs to change its specifications so that none at are listed as ‘nature identical’.
“There are many thousands,” Morgan said, and the update is expected to take between a year and 18 months.
Ninety per cent of the briefs the company receives are for natural flavours. Although there is a certain contradiction in the market, in that natural flavours are broadly more expensive than nature-identical - and retailers are after both cost-effective and natural solutions, he does not see this as a major barrier.
Neither, he predicts, will the financial crisis slow down the natural trend. “Consumers are too far gone.”
Named natural flavours
Another significant element to the new regulation is on the labelling of named natural flavours – for instance, ‘natural strawberry flavour’.
In this case, 95 per cent of the flavour must come from the named source. “If you can accept the principal then its fine, but it is hard to deliver,” said Morgan, adding that Synergy has very few in its portfolio.
However when natural flavours are used with other named flavours – for example ‘natural strawberry with other natural flavourings’ a level of interpretation is needed. The regulation states just that the named flavour must be present and must be recognizable, but that fulfilling these requirements and appropriate use of the term is to be case-by-case at company level.
Morgan finds this approach “curious”,and believes that some companies may try to stretch it.
Neither does he think industry will bind together with a coherent position. “All companies are looking for commercial advantage, and having left the area open for debate people will look for that,” he said.