Some time ago I saw on the news a person arguing about the differences between food additives (Es) within EU, focusing on the fact that some countries allow more additive than others.

This EU article indicates that all food additives within the member states must approved at EU level:

All additives in the EU must be authorised and listed with conditions of use in the EU's positive list based on:

  • A safety assessment
  • The technological need
  • Ensuring that use of the additive will not mislead consumers

Coming back to differences between Es usage I found this law text which contains a table with traditional foods for which certain Member States may continue to prohibit the use of certain categories of food additives, but no other information for Es usage discrepancy between member states.

Besides that, I cannot find other information related EU policy consistency towards food additives (basically all member states should have the same list of allowed Es).

Question: Is food additive usage unified across the EU (except for traditional foods)?

  • "...basically all member states should have the same list of allowed Es..." Should they? Maybe it's sufficient if they use the same list to choose from for creating their lists. That might already ensure that only authorized additives are used. Commented Dec 7, 2018 at 13:39

1 Answer 1


Additive use is closely harmonised across the EU.

EU regulations and directives are for maintaining a single market, so a Belgian producer can sell their good in France (for example) without worrying about whether the regulations on additives are different.

What this means: If France decides to ban the colourant E101, it cannot ban imports from Belgium of food that uses E101. Furthermore, if France cannot decide to allow "Lead Oxide" as an additive (it is toxic and not permitted in EU regulation) as it could not then export it.

While there may be variations in national additive regulations, these regulations must be consistent with EU law.

However there is one small exception noted in EU law, certain traditional foodstuffs are made without additives in some locations. A well-known example is the German Beer Law, the Reinheitsgebot which only permits malted barley, hops, water (and later yeast) in beer. Other countries make beer with a wider variety of ingredients and additives. The regulation allows countries to be stricter about additives in a limited list of traditional foods than would otherwise be the case.

It is worth noting that the Reinheitsgebot was originally in part a protectionist measure aimed at preventing imports into Bavaria of North German and Dutch beers that contained a wide variety of additives and flavourings.

  • IMO your answer should explain more that traditional foods receive very special protections. For example, can not be made outside of specific regions. This provision about food additives basically allows countries to create stricter rulings as part of more general brand protection, we might say. Furthermore, considering that other countries are not permitted to make and brand those foods in the first place (because it wouldn't be regional if anyone could), issue of homogeneity of permitted additives is moot.
    – M i ech
    Commented Dec 11, 2018 at 13:16
  • 1
    @Miech In general things like protected designation of origin only apply to names and trademarks, rather than the production itself en.wikipedia.org/wiki/… A producer in Italy is allowed to make sparkling wine in the Champagne method. They just cannot label it as champagne. Similarly British supermarkets are full of non-Greek produced "white salad cheese" which before 2002 would have been labelled feta.
    – origimbo
    Commented Dec 11, 2018 at 14:23

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