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Procedure : 2006/0143(COD)
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Texts tabled :

A6-0153/2007

Debates :

PV 09/07/2007 - 15
CRE 09/07/2007 - 15

Votes :

PV 10/07/2007 - 8.32
CRE 10/07/2007 - 8.32
Explanations of votes
Explanations of votes

Texts adopted :

P6_TA(2007)0320

Debates
Monday, 9 July 2007 - Strasbourg OJ edition

15. Common authorisation procedure for food additives – Food additives – Food enzymes – Flavourings and food ingredients with flavouring properties for use in and on foods (debate)
PV
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  President. The next item is the joint debate on the following reports:

- (A6-0153/2007) by Mrs Westlund, on behalf of the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety, on the proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council establishing a common authorisation procedure for food additives, food enzymes and food flavourings (COM(2006)0423 C6-0258/2006 2006/0143(COD))

- (A6-0154/2007) by Mrs Westlund, on behalf of the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety, on the proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on food additives (COM(2006)0428 C6-0260/2006 2006/0145(COD))

- (A6-0177/2007), by Mrs Doyle, on behalf of the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety, on the proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on food enzymes and amending Council Directive 83/417/EC, Council Regulation (EC) No 1493/1999, Directive 2000/13/EC and Council Directive 2001/112/EC (COM(2006)0425 C6-0257/2006 2006/0144(COD)) and

- (A6-0185/2007), by Mrs Drčar Murko, on behalf of the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety, on the proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on flavourings and certain food ingredients with flavouring properties for use in and on foods and amending Council Regulation (EEC) No 1576/89, Council Regulation (EEC) No 1601/91, Regulation (EEC) No 2232/96 and Directive 2000/13/EC (COM(2006)0427 C6-0259/2006 2006/0147(COD))

 
  
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  Markos Kyprianou, Member of the Commission. Mr President, I have to say that I am happy that we are having this discussion today, but I know for many who do not know the details of these proposals that it may not sound very exciting. As a topic it may appear to be very technical, but it is not for me, because these proposals combine most of the European priorities. They involve food safety and consumer protection, which is one of the main priorities. They also touch upon innovation and the competitiveness of the European food industry, which is one of Europe’s main industries. They also seek to achieve simplification and better regulation. Although we still do not see eye to eye on the issues relating to these proposals, I am confident that we agree on the principles, the purpose and the targets of these proposals and that we will agree on a solution soon.

I would like to thank all the rapporteurs, Mrs Westlund for the work she has done, Mrs Doyle and Mrs Drčar Murko for their considerable efforts in preparing these reports and, of course, the overall support for the proposal. In addition to simplification, this package also provides for harmonisation and promotes consistency between the three areas. The common authorisation procedure will establish a system for assessing and authorising additives, enzymes and flavourings in a consistent manner and will simplify administrative procedures for national authorities and business operators.

Comitology is a sensitive issue. The proposal introduces comitology in order to update Community lists of additives, enzymes and flavourings to ensure that these can be adapted in a timely manner. I should remind you that these are purely technical and scientific issues, but we need to be able to resolve them in a timely manner. This is of major importance for consumer safety and the competitiveness of the food industry. I am aware of the concerns about the proposal to use comitology as expressed by Members of Parliament, but the alternative would be impractical and burdensome for all, especially for the European Parliament, and would be unworkable in practice. I know there are several amendments already tabled which would introduce codecision for updating the Community list of the additives, enzymes and flavourings. Experience as regards various food additives has shown that authorisation of substances under codecision is long and complex. This has a negative impact on innovation and these delays increase risks for the consumers as well. On the other hand, comitology allows for fast authorisation and the introduction of restrictions or removal of substances, if necessary, in order to protect the consumers.

We believe that the proposed use of comitology is a step towards the simplification of the legal framework and is essential for the three proposals. For this reason we would oppose the amendments that would introduce codecision for authorisation of these substances. However, I fully support the necessary adaptations the proposal contains with a view to establishing a regulatory procedure with parliamentary scrutiny. I would like to clarify this, because when the Commission proposal was adopted we were still in the process of adopting the new system, so it still refers to the normal regulatory procedure. It will, therefore, have to be adapted, and we will do so in the amended proposal, to take into account the new regulatory procedure with scrutiny which will enhance the rights of Parliament to scrutinise and have full input into the authorisation of additives, enzymes and flavourings. And I believe through this new procedure we will achieve the intention of the European Parliament while still maintaining the advantages of a simpler procedure.

And now we will look very briefly at food additives and the other proposals. Food additives have been used since ancient times to improve presentation and maintain nutritional quality. The regulation of these substances is important to ensure food safety and also to ensure that consumers are not misled. That is why it is appropriate to update the current legislation, encouraging innovation and development as long as they are safe. These are assessed by EFSA and comply with other criteria laid down in the legislation. The current directive on flavourings also needs to be substantially amended in order to take into account technological and scientific developments in the areas of flavourings and the developments of food legislation in the European Community. In the interest of clarity, efficiency and simplification, I should add that the best approach is to replace the directive with a new regulation on flavourings alongside a separate regulation on common authorisation procedures. The proposal on flavourings offers a high level of protection for the consumers while allowing the industry to continue to develop new flavourings and new applications in order to respond to increasing consumer demand for more convenient products.

And finally we have the proposal on food enzymes. These have been used traditionally in the production of food such as bread, cheese, beer and wine. They can improve the texture, appearance and nutritional value of food and can be used as alternatives to chemical-based technology. At this stage the use of food enzymes is not fully harmonised within the European Union and the national regulatory contexts differ significantly among Member States. This lack of harmonisation has created barriers to trade and hindered growth in this field. As well as that, there is currently no safety evaluation of food enzymes at European level except for those few that are considered to be additives. In the meantime technology has advanced and production methods of enzymes have become progressively more complex and their use more sophisticated and widespread. Safety evaluation of all food enzymes is therefore essential.

The purpose of the Commission proposal is to bridge the current regulatory gap by creating harmonised rules for the authorisation and use of food enzymes in the Community. The establishment of the Community list of approved enzymes and efficient updates of the list by comitology will foster the competitiveness of this European-led sector and ensure a high level of consumer protection.

As I am running out of time, I will not tire you with a specific response to every amendment, but a full listing of the Commission’s position on each of the amendments will be made available to Parliament. I trust that this will be included in the report of proceedings for this sitting. Our response will explain our position on each amendment.

In conclusion, I would like to thank the Parliament for the considerable effort it has devoted to this whole legislative package. It should remain our shared interest – and I am confident that this will be the case – to keep these proposals together and apply a consistent approach.

Commission's position on amendments by Parliament

Report: Westlund (A6-0153/2007)

Overall the Commission can accept 28 amendments, either completely, subject to redrafting, in part or in principle. It rejects 11 out of a total of 39.

17 amendments are acceptable: 1, 2, 4, 5, 6, 7, 9, 10, 15, 21, 22, 23, 24, 27, 28, 30, 32

One amendment is acceptable partially and subject to redrafting: 37

10 amendments are acceptable in principle and subject to redrafting: 3, 8, 11, 12, 19, 25, 34, 35, 36, 38

11 amendments cannot be accepted: 13, 14, 16, 17, 18, 20, 26, 29, 31, 33, 39

Report: Westlund (A6-0154/2007)

Overall the Commission can accept 46 amendments, either completely, subject to redrafting, in part or in principle. It rejects 35 out of a total of 81.

21 amendments are acceptable: 8, 13, 14, 16, 18, 19, 21, 22, 36, 39, 42, 46, 48, 51, 56, 57, 59, 60, 3, 61, 62.

One amendment is acceptable partially: 33 (part)

6 amendments are acceptable in principle: 9, 26, 28, 35, 43, 44.

18 amendments are acceptable in principle and subject to redrafting: 7, 15, 23, 37, 55, 58, 1, 4, 63, 65 (64rev), 66 (65rev), 68 (67rev), 69 (68rev), 70rev, 71, 77, 79, 80

35 amendments cannot be accepted: 10, 11, 12, 17, 20, 24, 25, 27, 29, 30, 31, 32, 34, 38, 40, 41, 45, 47, 49, 50, 52, 53, 54, 2, 5, 6, 67 (66rev), 70 (69rev), 72, 73, 74, 75, 76, 78, 81

Report: Doyle (A6-0177/2007)

Overall the Commission can accept 32 amendments, either completely, subject to redrafting, in part or in principle. It rejects 8 out of a total of 40.

13 amendments are acceptable: 2, 3, 8, 10, 22, 23, 25, 27, 28, 30, 31, 35, 40.

3 amendments are acceptable partially: 1, 4, 19.

3 amendments are acceptable partially and subject to redrafting: 12, 14, 21.

13 amendments are acceptable in principle and subject to redrafting: 5, 7, 11, 15, 17, 18, 20, 24, 26, 29, 33, 34, 36.

8 amendments cannot be accepted: 6, 9, 13, 16, 32, 37, 38, 39.

Report: Drčar Murko (A6-0185/2007)

Overall the Commission can accept 29 amendments, either completely, subject to redrafting, in part or in principle. It rejects 24 out of a total of 53.

15 Amendments are acceptable: 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 12, 15, 28, 29, 30, 35, 36, 48.

10 amendments are acceptable in principle and subject to redrafting: 10, 14, 18, 25, 27, 31 (first part), 39, 41, 42, 45.

3 amendments are acceptable partially: 24, 33, 34

One amendment is acceptable partially and subject to redrafting: 1

25 amendments cannot be accepted: 2, 11, 13, 16, 17, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 26, 31 (second part), 32, 37, 38, 40, 43, 44, 46, 47, 49, 50, 51, 52, 53.

 
  
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  Åsa Westlund (PSE), rapporteur. (SV) Mr President, I wish to thank the Commission and Commissioner Kyprianou for their constructive cooperation. I also wish to thank the German and Portuguese Presidencies and the Council of Ministers for their willingness to arrive at agreements concerning what are such important matters for many players and consumers. Furthermore, I should like to say a big thank you to the rapporteurs, Mrs Doyle and Mrs Drčar Murko, for the other reports in this package and to the shadow rapporteurs for my two reports. We have had many valuable meetings, and there has been a very constructive climate of cooperation. I therefore have high hopes that the continued discussions on these matters will take place in the same untroubled and constructive spirit.

I wish to begin by talking about the proposal for a regulation on food additives. On many occasions, additives really do have to be used in order, for example, to improve the shelf life or consistency of food. It is far from clear, however, how all these additives affect our health and the environment, and additives are sometimes used in order to mislead us, the consumers. I therefore wish to see EU legislation on food additives made more stringent, above all by tightening up the requirement that consumers should not be misled and by requiring that, when an additive is authorised, account be taken of how the environment and people with allergies will be affected.

Current legislation already contains requirements that consumers should not be misled in connection with the use of additives. All too often, however, consumers do find themselves misled. An example is the colouring agent used to deceive consumers into believing that a cheap yoghurt contains more fruit or berries than it actually does contain. The requirement that additives should not be used in a way that misleads consumers must therefore be made more stringent. The Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety thought so as well, and I hope that Parliament too will support this position tomorrow.

What we eat does not stay in our own bodies but is dispersed into the environment. A start needs therefore to be made on factoring the environmental effects of additives in to the decision on whether or not they should be used. A clean environment should also be one of the objectives of the regulation. In order to clarify this further, the legal basis for food legislation should be changed so that it is clearly designed to improve public health and the environment and not only to promote freedom of movement for goods in the EU’s internal market.

The Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety has supported a series of proposals about giving more consideration to the environment, and I hope that Parliament might do the same tomorrow.

Let me return now to the position of those with allergies. At present, all food containing allergy-inducing substances must be labelled as such. That is good, but it is not enough. Those with allergies and those who have an intolerance of certain substances must be able to eat the food sold in ordinary food shops and served in ordinary restaurants and not have to be directed towards specialist fare. The range of food available to those with allergies should not, therefore, be limited due to the approval, without very good reasons, of additives that cause them problems. The Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety has partly supported my demands in this connection, and I hope that Parliament will take the opportunity tomorrow to do more to make matters easier for those with allergies by supporting my and others’ amendments calling for increased account to be taken specifically of those with allergies.

I should now like to say a few words about a group of colouring agents known as azo dyes. These were previously banned in Sweden because they can cause problems for people with allergies. A while ago the British newspaper The Guardian also drew attention to a still unpublished British study that again revives the quite frightening discussion about a possible connection between azo dyes and hyperactivity in children. I therefore support the demand that food containing azo dyes be specially labelled.

In conclusion, we must ask ourselves the following question: who is to take decisions about the content of our food in the future, and what decision-making process is to be adopted? I wish to call on all Members to vote against the amendments aimed at limiting consumers’ scrutiny of the approval process and instead to vote in favour of the amendments about increasing scrutiny and openness. The secretiveness surrounding our food is in danger of seriously damaging public confidence in both the EU and the food industry. When decisions are taken by the Council of Ministers and the European Parliament together, the decision-making process is also more democratic and more transparent. With a committee procedure, the democratic ability to hold the relevant decision-makers to account is jeopardised, and serious limits are placed on scrutiny and the ability to influence decisions. What is more, cases have unfortunately occurred in which, in the course of decision-making within the framework of the committee procedure, powers have been exceeded and the framework arrived at jointly by Parliament and the Council has thus not been complied with. An example concerning the use of resources by way of aid was, in actual fact, drawn to the attention of the European Parliament this very week. My advice, therefore, is that Parliament should have the right of codecision on these issues, even if the new regulatory procedure involving supervision also has its advantages.

 
  
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  Avril Doyle (PPE-DE), rapporteur. – Mr President, as rapporteur, I welcome the Commission's proposal on food enzymes, along with the other proposals in this package, as do industry and consumer groups generally. This proposal is actually the first piece of specific legislation aimed at food enzymes.

Enzymes are added to food to perform a wide range of technological functions in the manufacture, processing, preparation, treatment, packaging, transport or storage of foods. They are most commonly used in baking, brewing and cheese production and in the production of alcohol and other beverages.

While enzymes have been used for centuries in food production, in the latter half of the 20th century the use of enzymes in food production increased significantly and, since the 1980s, companies which produce enzymes have been using genetic engineering techniques to improve production efficiency and quality and to develop new products.

At present, there are no harmonised rules at Community level controlling the use of enzymes, creating not only barriers to trade and lack of legal certainty but also differing standards of health and consumer protection across the 27 Member States with only three Member States having their own risk assessment procedures at present, namely the United Kingdom, France and Denmark.

A regulation on food enzymes will therefore improve the operation of the single market in this area and thus promote European innovation and competitiveness, while ensuring a high level of consumer and environmental protection.

The proposed common authorisation procedure, for which Mrs Westlund is rapporteur, will also improve the efficiency of the single market with all risk assessments and all authorisations for food improvement agents being undertaken by the European Food Safety Authority.

There are just a few points I would like to highlight. Commissioner, I am also in favour of the ‘comitology with the right to parliamentary scrutiny’ procedure for this legislation. And I would like to see this harmonised across all four reports in the package, as these are technical reports which are best handled by the experts at EFSA and the Commission. Furthermore, as we are in the early stages of this new scrutiny system, we need to give it time to work before calling it into question.

I am concerned about the potential for double authorisation that this new enzyme regulation could create for food enzymes derived from genetically modified organisms which fall under the scope of Regulation (EC) No 1829/2003 on genetically modified food and feed. Under the present Commission proposal, the wording implies that such food enzymes would have to be authorised in accordance with that regulation before they may be assessed under this regulation for inclusion in the Community list.

While we have assurances that best administrative practice will apply in these cases at EFSA, I have proposed plenary amendments to my report to make it clear that EFSA could carry out concurrent or simultaneous assessments in accordance with the two pieces of relevant legislation. I support similar amendments to the reports on food additives and flavourings. We need coordinated wording across this package of legislation and there is agreement on this in large part between the Council, the Commission and industry on how to proceed.

Food enzymes are not and cannot be GMOs. However, an increasing amount of them are derived from genetically modified micro-organisms, and it is important to stress this distinction in order to avoid misunderstandings.

In my enzymes report I strongly recommend a single legal base for this regulation as it favours legal certainty which is in the line of most ECJ judgments on these matters. Dual legal bases generally mean sloppy drafting and leave the measure open to challenge, with respect. This regulation is purely a market harmonisation measure so I would prefer a single legal base in Article 95, the internal market legal base, alone.

A key issue of concern in the report on food additives is the proposed change in the definition of processing aids contained in several amendments that would require them to be authorised and labelled as additives if they are present in the final product, even when they are not active. This change was not put forward by the Commission in its original proposal and would signal a major departure from the current approach in EU food legislation with potentially major consequences for the European food industry.

Such a change would be out of synch with the Codex definition on processing aids and so could adversely affect European competitiveness and international trade. I am also dubious as to whether such excessive label clutter would actually improve consumer information.

To conclude, I would like to thank my colleagues for their support and collaboration, particularly Mrs Westlund and Mrs Drčar Murko. We need to coordinate and harmonise the four pieces of legislation in this package as much as possible in order to achieve coherent and practical regulations that can be easily interpreted and applied in all Member States and I look forward to further fine-tuning these reports at second reading.

 
  
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  Mojca Drčar Murko (ALDE), rapporteur. – (SL) I support the position of the regulation on flavourings: The outdated European legislation needs to be modernised and simplified in order to improve the operation of the internal market and to promote technological advances, although not at the cost of reducing consumer protection. On the contrary, protection must be increased.

The aim of standardised rules for approving new food additives is to increase the trust of consumers. The rules must be such that they preclude the possibility of consumers being misled, and apart from anything else this requires accurate and clear labelling of products.

Alongside the toxicological aspect of food safety, I believe we also need to take into account the expediency of adding flavourings to food. Indeed it is possible for manufacturers to use strong flavourings in order to cover up bad ingredients in their ready-made food. The issue of the technological expediency of flavourings is, then, linked to the principles of protecting people’s health.

The contentious part of the regulation in my view is the part about food ingredients with aromatic properties, especially herbs and spices. These were included in the text of the regulation after the publication of reports on the genotoxicity and carcinogenic effects of certain pure biologically active principles in herbs. The maximum permitted amounts, relating to around 60 herbs and spices, are contained in Appendix III to the regulation.

We do not underestimate the scientific evidence that biologically active principles can in themselves be harmful. I agree that we need to preclude the possibility of toxic substances accidentally getting into ready-made food. For the moment, there is no scientific evidence that such principles are harmful, even when they appear, in minute quantities, in mixtures of herbs and spices and we ingest them in ready-made food.

One possible consequence of determining the highest permitted values based on biologically active principles might be that certain traditional products, which have already been in the European market for decades, would disappear from it, with food producers leaving out herbs and using flavourings in their place.

I speak on behalf of almost all members of the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety when I say that the issue of biologically active principles needs to be addressed in a complex and integrated way. I propose that the solution adopted by a large majority in the committee be supported by Members in the plenary session. In that case Appendix III, part B would remain in the regulation, but would be empty until based on scientifically supported reasons and the Commission, within its competence, orders a relevant study, which would use the average daily consumption of such food to calculate the actual risk to human health.

In the regulation on additives we support the view that a condition for inclusion on the list of permitted substances is a positive opinion from the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), but this should not be the only criterion. Toxicological acceptability does not say everything about how sensible it is to add additives in the light of European Union efforts to educate people towards healthy eating habits. Reasonable technological interest is a concept which, in light of this, we support as a tool for the political interpretation of borderline problems. It makes sense, for instance, to prevent consumers from being misled with regard to the value of food additives, if in truth they have no value.

Our group also supports a unified and centralised procedure for approving new additives, flavourings and enzymes, on condition that it becomes more efficient, faster and more transparent. We had some reservations, which we expressed in the debate in the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety, but having counted up the good and less good sides to the new proposal, we are of the opinion that comitology with the right of scrutiny will give Parliament the option of fleshing out the technical aspects of approving food additives with certain political criteria that seem important from the point of view of long-term consumer protection.

Finally, I wish to offer a heartfelt thanks to the two rapporteurs of the other regulations which go to make up the new legislative package for their excellent cooperation and very productive exchange of opinions.

 
  
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  Manuel Medina Ortega (PSE), draftsman of the opinion of the Committee on Legal Affairs. (ES) Mr President, the Committee on Legal Affairs was required by the chairman of the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety to issue its opinion on the appropriate legal basis for the proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council establishing a common authorisation procedure for food additives, food enzymes and food flavourings.

The Committee on Legal Affairs has studied the issue and, firstly, we have found that it is perfectly possible to have two different legal bases. For example, we have the judgment of the Court of Justice of 1988 in the case of the Commission versus the Council, which establishes this possibility of a twin legal basis in the event that the objectives of the protection of persons and of the functioning of the internal market coincide.

We believe that they coincide in the case of this Directive. It is not simply a directive aimed at maintaining the internal market, but also a directive that is intended to provide the maximum degree of legal protection.

There is no difficulty from a procedural point of view, because the procedure is the same: the codecision procedure. Nevertheless, we believe that the legal basis of Article 95 – based exclusively on the internal market – is not sufficient, and that it must therefore be reinforced by means of Article 175(1), which relates to the protection of people’s health.

 
  
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  Horst Schnellhardt, on behalf of the PPE-DE Group. – (DE) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen!

In your introduction, Commissioner, you described the advantages of these new arrangements: greater legal certainty, better information for consumers and – very importantly – less bureaucracy. I can only support you! Please continue. Transform this patchwork of directives into regulations. Then we will have an important and correct basis for European legislation.

Since regulations of course apply in all Member States as they stand, the conditions of the internal market demand a degree of flexibility and messages that are relevant. That is why the scrutiny of a product in the codecision procedure, as proposed in committee, is unnecessary. I am a strong supporter of the codecision procedure, but in this case I am nevertheless arguing that the extended comitology procedure be used. I am sure you will find that acceptable.

The effect of products and food additives on health or – as Mrs Westlund says – on the natural environment should not come into these regulations either. We should be concentrating on what we want to achieve. Otherwise we will end up with a broad fabric of rules and will fall short of our target. There are plenty of other rules for that.

I also think the proposal that food additives should be permitted only if the effect cannot be achieved with spices is altogether excessive. There is no scientific basis for this. We cannot agree to it.

I am actually very happy with the authorisation procedures. But show a bit of confidence in your colleagues, ladies and gentlemen of the Commission! Why six months for the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and nine months for the Commission? You should change that, Commissioner. Follow the proposal of allowing both institutions six months. It should then be possible to develop something positive.

 
  
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  Karin Scheele, on behalf of the PSE Group. – (DE) Mr President, I would like to thank the three rapporteurs, especially Mrs Doyle, who produced the report for which I am shadow rapporteur for the Socialist Group in the European Parliament. I would like to try and identify the common points, but also the differences between our positions. Like the previous speakers from my group, I support the approach of having two legal bases for the regulations because for me the enhanced consumer safety this Commission proposal contains really is the most important argument.

As Mrs Doyle has already mentioned, only three Member States have so far introduced a safety assessment for enzymes into their national laws. That is why we need a safety assessment at European level – precisely on grounds of consumer safety.

I hope that tomorrow’s plenary will follow the committee’s example and accept a further criterion, in addition to those provided in the Commission’s text, for a food enzyme to be included in the Community list: namely that its use should benefit the consumer.

Enzymes derived from genetically modified organisms are an important subject for me, as also for many other Members of this House. I well remember how, when we debated the regulation on genetically modified food and feed in this house a few years ago, many of us tried to get acceptance for the European public’s wish that GMO-derived enzymes should be labelled as such. At the time, our attention was drawn to this general revision of the enzyme legislation. That is where we are today and that is why I believe that the time has now come to get the wishes of a broad majority of the European public accepted.

If I may now turn from my own terms of reference directly to Åsa Westlund’s report, I will of course support the codecision approach, because on a subject such as enzymes we should ensure the broadest possible transparency. It is of course interesting that the Commission is advocating the extended comitology procedure here, while we are up against a brick wall with another dossier on genetically modified organisms. I find it very interesting that in this case the regulatory procedure with scrutiny is said to be possible for individual authorisations of enzymes, even though that is evidently still not the case with other topics such as genetically modified organisms.

 
  
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  Marios Matsakis, on behalf of the ALDE Group. – Mr President, I wish to congratulate Mrs Doyle on her excellent report on food enzymes and to thank her for the very good cooperation she afforded to all the shadow rapporteurs.

The use of enzymes in food processing is well known through the ages. However, in recent years such use has multiplied in number, quantity and complexity. It is therefore imperative to have new EU legislation on this aspect of food production.

Some of the areas on which the rapporteur has focused her attention include providing clear definitions of food enzymes and food enzyme preparations, the proper labelling of products and, perhaps most controversially, food enzymes derived from genetically modified micro-organisms.

In general, I fully support the line followed by the rapporteur in this report. However, concerning GMO-derived enzymes, I have decided to follow a more strictly ‘green’ approach than Mrs Doyle, although I must admit that the rapporteur has made significant compromise changes which greatly improve the approach to the matter of GMOs.

Nevertheless, I would like to tackle the issue, appearing perhaps a bit over- rather than under-cautious, as the subject matter has a number of as yet unresolved scientific question marks and unknown quantities. In addition, I feel that, as far as our citizens’ health is concerned, it is always better to be safe than sorry. Besides, the European public’s psyche and perceived understanding of anything to do with GMOs is presently somewhat suspicious, to say the least. It is only right and fair that the public should be given full information with crystal clarity and honest precision on foodstuffs that contain certain substances derived from GMOs. Only in this way will our citizens feel absolutely safe that they can enjoy food produced with the use of enzymes, knowing exactly how the enzymes were produced. The vast majority of consumers might not make full use of such a practice, but it will be available for those few who wish to be fully informed as a matter of right.

 
  
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  Andrzej Tomasz Zapałowski, on behalf of the UEN Group. (PL) Mr President, chemical substances are now being added to an increasing amount of food in Europe and the world over. The food industry is serving up increasing amounts of food substitutes to society and especially to children. It very often seems as if we are consuming chemical additives and food in equal quantities.

The young are particularly exposed to the dangers of unwholesome food. They are the group most easily seduced by advertising, and they consume the most colourings in drinks and sweets, especially pre-packaged ones. The report is a step in the right direction, but the absence of a ban on the use of GMOs in food products and the emphasis on their possible use are cause for concern.

I suggest you reflect on the following, ladies and gentlemen. If we do away with food additives and replace them with GMOs in certain cases, we might well be exposing society to new risks in the future, by creating the conditions for currently unknown diseases and their detrimental effects on the human body.

 
  
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  Carl Schlyter, on behalf of the Verts/ALE Group. (SV) I wish to thank the rapporteurs for their constructive cooperation. One of the consequences of this is that my amendments limiting the use of flavour enhancers, warning against azo dyes and calling for the labelling and risk assessment of genetically modified additives and pesticides used as preservatives have been incorporated into the report. I hope that these amendments will be retained by plenary.

In proposing a double legal basis I am supporting the rapporteur. When additives are authorised, account must be taken of their environmental impact. This may be necessary in order to obtain proper purification in sewage treatment works.

The main idea contained in the Commission’s proposal is to introduce committee procedures for additives. The risks we should then run would be those of too many additives being approved and of only provably dangerous substances being banned. The experience of the European Food Safety Authority shows that the precautionary principle does not count for much. Moreover, one of the basic requirements of the regulation is that consumers should not be misled. How these matters are to be interpreted as a political issue and thus an issue for Parliament.

We are entitled to good, natural and safe food. Often, additives that are not fresh or natural are used in food. Consumers have everything to gain from the competitive advantages of natural and fresh food not being reduced through sloppy legislation on additives that favours food produced on a centralised and large-scale basis and involving something that, too, is scarcely very good for the environment, namely transport over long distances.

It is therefore absurd for the Commission to state that the need to put colour in otherwise colourless food is a particularly important reason for using colouring agents. That, if any, procedure is likely to mislead the consumer. The proposal that sweeteners might be used for the specific purpose of extending a product’s shelf life is misleading and should be deleted.

I hope that, with a view to protecting children, I shall obtain support for limiting colorants in food designed for children. Nor should nanoparticles be approved under this regulation, because the latter is not designed for dealing with the properties of nanoparticles. We should also take special account of those with allergies by not allowing additives to limit their choice of food.

Those manufacturers that do not provide adequate information about their additives must not, of course, have them approved. Manufacturers must not find it worthwhile to withhold information. We in the Group of the Greens/European Free Alliance have tabled amendments to reflect all these considerations. If they are approved, we shall obtain legislation that protects consumers.

The Group of the Greens/European Free Alliance has applied the same logic to other regulations. Naturally seasoned food must not be placed at a disadvantage, as it would be through the Commission’s proposal. I call on everyone to support natural seasoning and not to allow themselves to be deceived by the synthetic additives industry.

 
  
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  Pilar Ayuso (PPE-DE). – (ES) Mr President, Commissioner, my speech will concern the Regulation on flavourings. I would like to thank the rapporteur on that subject, Mrs Murko, for the way we have worked together and the good agreements we have reached.

Firstly, I welcome the Commission’s proposal, because it brings the legislation up to date, while at the same time simplifying the approval procedures, centralising the assessment of the risks of marketing flavourings and the drawing up of a positive list within the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA).

Also important is Parliament's contribution to this report, which has been so well coordinated by Mrs Murko, as I have said.

We believe the commitology procedure to be appropriate and we agree with it, provided that it does not deprive Parliament of the opportunity to examine it when it sees fit. The application of the Regulation must be extended to frozen herbs and spices, since that is what technology requires.

Natural flavourings must be labelled as such, because the consumer has the right to that information. Foods and food ingredients produced from genetically-modified organisms (GMOs) that conform to the requirements of Regulation (EC) No 1829/2003, on genetically-modified food and feed, and those of the present Regulation, must be subject to a single assessment by the EFSA that is valid for both authorisation procedures. They must not be subject to two different procedures for the same purpose.

Natural herbs and spices have very specific characteristics and I believe that the solution reached is a good one, consisting of removing them from the annex.

The transition period, something not provided for in the Regulation, is also needed while the current legislation is in force. That is the intention of the amendments from the Group of the European People’s Party (Christian Democrats) and European Democrats.

 
  
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  Edite Estrela (PSE).(PT) Mr President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, how many amateur or professional cooks within Europe or beyond would have thought that the excessive use of flavourings might be harmful to health? Very few, I am sure. How many of us who like the flavour of oregano or cloves could imagine that flavouring food could be dangerous in certain extreme cases? Probably none of us. Yet specialists tell us that food poisoning and allergies really can be caused if flavourings are not used in accordance with consumer standards.

Consumers know, and if they do not they ought to know, that consuming chemical ingredients is not the same thing as swallowing natural products, and we also know from experience that synthetic, chemical and industrial products are, as a rule, more affordable than natural ones. Consumers therefore need to be informed of the characteristics of flavourings and the sector needs to be regulated.

The regulations proposed by the Commission and these reports are a step in the right direction. Actually, I should like to take this opportunity to congratulate the Commission and the rapporteurs – Mrs Westland, Mrs Doyle and Mrs Drčar Murko – on the work they have done and on their cooperation with the shadow rapporteurs, particularly Mrs Drčar Murko, with whom I worked as the shadow rapporteur for the Socialist Group in the European Parliament.

Protecting public health and informing and protecting consumers are objectives that should guide all European policies. Thus the draft regulation is welcome, since it aims at updating the rules on the use of flavourings so as to keep up with technological and scientific developments in this field. The new legislation lays down much clearer rules in line with the maximum levels of toxic substances, taking account of recent scientific opinions issued by the European Food Safety Agency. It establishes more precise definitions for flavourings and introduces more restrictive conditions for the use of the term ‘natural’ in descriptions of flavourings.

We believe that the European Parliament’s contribution addresses the need for greater clarification and harmonisation of the legislation on flavourings. Do the new rules leave consumers better informed and protected, without harming industry? They are therefore entirely beneficial. Creating a clear framework encourages innovation and facilitates new technological developments, and Europe’s industry will be able to maintain its leading position in the field of flavourings. Thus we expect there will be positive effects on public health.

 
  
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  Alexandru-Ioan Morţun (ALDE). – Mâine, Parlamentul European urmează să adopte patru regulamente urmare cărora Comisia şi Comitetul permanent pentru lanţul alimentar şi sănătatea animală vor trebui să revizuiască toate autorizaţiile existente din punct de vedere al criteriilor, altele decât siguranţa, ca de exemplu: dozele, necesităţile tehnologice şi chiar eventuala inducere în eroare a consumatorului.

După intrarea în vigoare a regulamentelor menţionate, Comisia Europeană va trebui să monitorizeze aplicarea lor şi să ia măsuri cu precădere împotriva producătorilor de produse alimentare pentru sugari şi copii, care nu menţionează încă pe etichete cantitatea şi denumirea tuturor aditivilor, mai ales a celor care sunt utilizaţi în cantităţi foarte mici şi care nu pot fi depistaţi cu uşurinţă prin metodele clasice de analiză.

În prezent, în multe ţări ale Uniunii Europene, medicii au semnalat multe cazuri de alergii din cauza unor produse alimentare ce conţin diverşi aditivi. În absenţa menţionării tuturor acestora pe etichetele produselor alimentare, medicii - şi vă vorbesc ca medic - nu reuşesc să găsească remediile necesare la aceste alergii, mai ales dacă este cazul unui tratament de urgenţă.

Din aceste motive cred că Parlamentul European ar trebui să susţină aceste idei mâine, să susţină amendamentele care se referă la acestea.

 
  
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  Wiesław Stefan Kuc (UEN). – (PL) Mr President, growing competition between food producers and their battle to attract consumers have meant that the former strive to make their products appear as attractive as possible. They resort to artificial means to give the products a more pleasing appearance, a better taste or a longer shelf life. These actions are not always beneficial to consumers' health, however.

The reports by Mrs Westlund, Mrs Doyle and Mrs Drčar Murko represent an effort to protect both our health and the environment. I refer to Amendment No 17 to Article 3. I cannot, therefore, understand why there are such large-scale exclusions from the definition of food additives. Why are sugars excluded? I use the term sugars to include multisugars such as starch, ammonium chloride, pectins and amino acids. Could this be due to pressure from major producers? If that is so, the report will not achieve its objective.

 
  
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  Kathalijne Maria Buitenweg (Verts/ALE). – (NL) Mr President, flavourings with harmful effects on human health simply do not belong in our foods. As has been said before, consumers are entitled to safe food, and the environmental effects should also be outlined.

As the rapporteur has said, it is a good thing that checks are being made to find out if certain foods have carcinogenic effects. Flavourings, however, that are not directly harmful can have a negative effect indirectly. Indeed, our body is being misled by artificial flavourings. Flavourings can be up to 90% responsible for the taste of a food, and we determine whether we want to eat a product or not by tasting, smelling and looking at it. How fresh or how healthy it is is a different matter altogether and, without flavourings, you would really never contemplate eating fast food.

There are also artificial flavourings with an addictive effect, such as monosodium glutamate, of which people only want to eat more, such as crisps, for example. I am pleased that Parliament is tabling proposals for labels with sound, objective information. This alone is not enough, though, because people do not realise that they have to read the small print. This is why it is so vitally important that a campaign be launched, for example in the framework of the campaign against obesity which the European Commission has started, to explain what healthy food is and that the small print can make all the difference in terms of weight gain or loss.

 
  
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  Françoise Grossetête (PPE-DE).(FR) Mr President, Commissioner, we have a package of regulations before us today that are particularly important for consumers. They are important, as Commissioner Kyprianou rightly said, because we are concerned here with food safety, with meeting consumers' expectations in terms of flavours and, lastly, with the competitiveness of our food processing companies.

On the issue of authorising food improvement agents made from GMOs, I believe that it was in fact necessary to comply with the regulation on GMOs. That being said, I should like above all to speak about flavourings and, more precisely, about natural flavourings. I think it important to examine more closely the issue of labels marked 'natural flavouring' because, as the legislation currently stands, manufacturers may affix the label 'natural flavouring' to their products once the flavouring is 100% natural, no matter what the formula.

Tomorrow, if the proposed regulation is adopted in its current state, manufacturers will no longer be able to use this ‘natural flavouring’ description, but will have to resort to the expression – which I feel is far clumsier – ‘natural flavouring of’, for example, ‘apples’, if it is a product made from apples. I would have liked us to have stopped there, with the percentage that we have had up to now; that is to say that, of the total number of flavouring agents, 90% at least must come from a named source, it being understood that the 10% that do not come from the named source are just as natural because they come from another natural source. The fact is, we know full well that, in order to develop certain flavours, it is necessary to use other natural flavourings, to add 10%, for example, of another natural flavouring that enables a flavour to be enhanced.

Therefore, moving in the direction of a 95% and 5%, even 100%, ratio would result in flavourings being standardised at European level, which I feel goes against the creativity of the industry – against the innovation of the food industry – and I find that particularly regrettable.

 
  
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  Zbigniew Krzysztof Kuźmiuk (UEN). – (PL) Mr President, I should like to draw attention to four issues in this debate. Firstly, food additives must not represent a danger to the life and health of consumers. Secondly, additives may only be resorted to when their use is essential for technological reasons and on condition that consumers will benefit as a result. Additives may also be used when the intended effect cannot be achieved through the use of natural products.

Thirdly, the labels affixed to food products must provide reliable information on the food additives contained in those products. Fourthly, as a general rule, additives created on the basis of GMOs or produced by GMOs should not be used in food.

Should such additives be used in food, however, the labels should contain not only reliable information but also a warning alerting the consumer that GMOs have been used in the additives.

 
  
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  Markos Kyprianou, Member of the Commission. Mr President, I would like to thank the Members for a very interesting debate. As I anticipated, on some issues we do not completely agree, but I am sure that with discussions and some goodwill on both sides we will be able to find solutions.

To begin with, the priority for all of us, the main consideration, is the protection of the consumer, there is no question about that, and I am sure you do not doubt my willingness to promote the interest of the consumer in this respect, but at the same time we have to remain proportional, we have to be practical and we have to be able to achieve this target with the smallest possible administrative burden.

I would like to refer to some of the issues, though I do not want to take up too much time. Firstly, on the issue of codecision and comitology, maybe I should remind you that the reason we, the two institutions, agreed on the new principle of comitology with scrutiny was precisely to find a procedure through which we could have a practical, simple, speedy way of taking decisions on technical and scientific issues by giving a stronger say to the European Parliament and having more transparency for the European Parliament to be able to express its views. By the way, this has not been used yet, we have just started with that. My legislation on health claims was the first to adopt this, so referring to the old comitology procedure is not relevant to what we are discussing now because now we are discussing the new one, which achieves the targets of transparency and of involvement of the European Parliament but at the same time allows a speedy and practical way of deciding on technical and scientific questions. Imagine having to go through the whole legislative proposal every time you have to decide on an enzyme, on an additive, on a calorie, when at the end of the day it will all be based on the views of the European Food Safety Authority that we have jointly, with legislation from Parliament, created exactly for this purpose.

I would ask Parliament, or the sides of Parliament which are keen on introducing codecision in this respect, to reconsider, because in the end we will not achieve any of the intended targets we have set and it will eventually, due to the lengthy procedures, work against the interests of consumers as well.

On the issue of the legal basis, I agree with Mrs Doyle. You know our position and I believe that we should have a single legal base. I believe that this can cover all the other considerations, because the other considerations are reflected in the legislation itself.

On the issue of allergenicity, I agree that this should be one of the legitimate factors to consider when authorising food additives, so it will be a factor to be taken into account. Labelling, too, is a very important aspect and will help the consumers get information, but we could not accept a total restriction on those additives which may be allergenic as the consumers affected by those can be protected through the labelling legislation.

On the double authorisation procedures with the GMOs I agree that we have to have a practical and good administrative practice. Therefore, we could accept the proposed clarification but with some rewording to make the text compatible with Regulation (EC) No 1829/2003.

On the issue of herbs and spices, I agree they are natural, but, at the same time, it does not mean that they do not contain certain substances naturally which can still pose health problems. That is why it is useful and important to also include those on the list and have the maximum levels. We had a situation recently in at least one Member State where we had to consider the possibility of reintroducing maximum levels. Therefore, just because something is natural does not necessarily, and by definition, mean that it does not also contain some substances that when consumed in excessive amounts can be harmful.

On the question of nine months for the Commission, six months for EFSA, nine months is the maximum time proposed, but that does not mean that it will take nine months. However, at the same time, based on the opinion of EFSA, there is a procedure for the Commission to consult with the stakeholders and the Member States to see how they can deal with the technological needs, the benefits to consumers and to ensure that consumers are not misled. There are many other relevant factors. As you know, consultation processes in the European Union need some time. We have to be able to exhaust those processes. That is why we would like to have adequate time, but that does not necessarily mean that this time will be exhausted.

On the issue of the benefits to the consumer, we could accept that these be included in a recital – this would reinforce an important principle – but not in a restrictive way in the legislation. I will not go into details. When we get our position we will be able to see the reason why we can accept part of it.

On the issue of how the legislation on pesticides complements this legislation and vice versa, we believe that one complements the other. Therefore, when a product is not covered under plant protection legislation it will be covered by this one. It is important for clarity to maintain a clear line between these two areas of legislation. I was specifically interested to see whether there was a possibility of creating a gap, and that is not possible. It is clear that one or the other pieces of legislation will assess the safety of the product, depending at what stage it is being used, and taking into account some technical aspects of it.

On the issue of ‘natural’ and the question of 90% or 95%, it is important that when we refer to the source we have the highest percentage possible of that source. At the same time, the rest has to come from a natural source. On the other hand, if something is to be called ‘natural’ and not by reference to a specific source, then it has to be 100% natural.

The main target for all this is to ensure that consumers are not being misled. At the end of the day, the most important aspect of the proposals is to assess safety, make sure that there is no risk to the health of consumers and provide information so that consumers can make an informed choice. It will be up to them to decide whether they want to buy a processed product or something natural and fresh. It is our basic policy to promote the consumption of fresh foods, but we cannot exclude the other products from the market. Therefore we have to give consumers a choice and then they can exercise it according to their needs.

 
  
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  President. The debate is closed.

The vote will take place on Tuesday 10 July 2007.

Written statements (Article 142)

 
  
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  Miroslav Mikolášik (PPE-DE), in writing. – For many years food enzymes have been very often used in alimentary production process in order to provide the highest and the finest quality of products. As our technologies are improving and genetically modified micro-organisms are used in this process as well, there is strong need of regulation in order to ensure the safety and health of consumers at the European level. Currently food enzymes used as processing aids are not covered by EU legislation. Member States legislation on food enzymes differs significantly, which can lead to problems for the internal market and an unclear situation for the European consumer. That is why I support the efforts of the rapporteur and the Commission to accept the package, which is designed to create a simplified common approval procedure for food enzymes.

 
  
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  Gyula Hegyi (PSE) , in writing.(HU) Many people have reservations about food additives. This is caused partly by a lack of information, partly by the many scandals and abuses. We can only welcome, therefore, the Commission’s intention to tighten and simplify the pertinent regulations. A good initiative is, in my opinion, the setting up of a new list of beneficial, safe additive substances. Of course customers’ views also have to be taken into consideration, and these may vary from country to country, indeed among smaller regions and according to age groups as well. We need also to strive to encourage young people to consume a greater quantity of natural and healthy food items.

It is very important in my opinion to protect certain groups of people, such as those suffering from food allergies. In my capacity as rapporteur for the GMO report, I also support the proposal to indicate unequivocally whether the product contains any GMO additives. Trust in a product can only be improved by reliable, precise information. The approval procedure has to be made transparent and the use of safer substances encouraged.

 
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