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what is a food additive?

A food additive is a substance not normally consumed as food itself, intentionally added to food for a technological purpose in the manufacture, processing, preparation, treatment, packaging, transport or storage of such food.
In the EU, Food flavourings are not considered as food additives.

Regulation (EC) No 1333/2008 of the European Parliament and the Council of 16 December 2008 on food additives is the general framework for the placing on the market and use of additives in Europe.
In 2011, Regulation (EC) No 1333/2008 was completed with the lists of approved food additives (Union List) for use in food categories (Annex II) and in ingredients : additives, enzymes, flavourings and nutrients (Annex III).


The food additives regulation relies upon a positive list principle: only those additives present in the Union List are authorised for use in foodstuffs. The authorisation of an additive, and thus its inclusion in the Union List, is subject to the following conditions:

  • The additive does not, on the basis of the scientific evidence available, pose a safety concern to the health of the consumer at the level of use proposed
  • There is a reasonable technological need that cannot be achieved by other economically and technologically practicable means
  • Its use does not mislead the consumer

The procedure for their authorisation is defined in Regulation (EC) No 1331/2008 (Common Authorisation Procedure (CAP) together with enzymes and flavourings). All authorised food additives must fulfil specifications and purity criteria which are set out in Regulation (EU) No 231/2012.

More information on:

DG SANTE website – Food Additives