VEGA News Item

An Off Flavour for the EC Register: Acetamide - 24/04/2006
Following a negative safety assessment by the Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA), the FSA has considered that it is inappropriate for acteamide to be used as a flavoring agent.
“Following a negative safety assessment by the Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA), this committee considered that it is inappropriate for such a compound to be used as a flavoring agent and accordingly, acetamide does not comply with the general criteria set out in the annex to Regulation (EC) No 2232/96 and should be deleted from the register.” This warning, dated 21 April 2006, has been received by VEGA from Dr James Ridsdale of the Food Standards Agency’s Novel Foods, Additives and Supplements Division.

He adds: “It will therefore not be eligible for inclusion in the eventual positive list of flavoring substances… At the European Commission Working Group on Flavorings meeting on 2 March 2006, the Commission stated that 19 flavoring groups had been evaluated by FLAVIS of which 15 have been formally adopted by EFSA (the European Food Safety Agency). It is currently intended that FLAVIS should complete its evaluations by November 2007 with publication of a positive list of flavouring substances in 2008.”

We comment that flavorings, like processing aids, are poorly – if at all – described on food labels. When consumers smell a rat of dubious or questionable provenance – actually acetamide smells mousy as we remember from school chemistry – they should flex effectual muscle: first take queries to the retailer or outlet and follow up with enquiries to the manufacturer’s or importer’s consumer affairs department, keeping records and dates of all exchanges. If satisfaction is not achieved, raise the matter with the local Trading Standards Office, which can be reached through the Town Hall.

Flavorings are used in many savoury foods. Some may be products of GM. Enquiring consumers and boycotters are more effective than banner wavers out in the street. Mighty supermarkets recognize that one consumer moved to an enquiry of this type may represent a hundred or more malcontents who take their custom (and much other shopping) to a competitor; therefore, formal complaint, comparison, and praise are effective.

Acetamide must be distinguished from acrylamide, which arises in cooking and heating objectionably in reactions in some foods containing proteins and sugars.

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