HomeConsum-actorsPlant extracts in meat, short circuit in Europe

Plant extracts in meat, short circuit in Europe

European consumers are clamoring for food 'natural' and find an answer in the growing offer of products free of additives, preservatives and dyes in particular. The cd 'clean label' and the 'free from' indications on the label. Thanks to the recovery of centuries-old experiences of use of some 'botanicalsand technological innovation 'natural'. However, the European Commission - after having funded this type of research in one of the most sensitive areas, the preservation of meat products - takes a step back. With a controversial interpretation of the applicable rules. Short circuit.

Natural preservatives in meat, the misunderstandings of the European Commission

La DG Research of the European Commission, responsible for the research projects FP7 and Horizon 2020, has financed in recent years some projects aimed at reducing the use of nitrites and nitrates in meats. By identifying the synergies of phytocomplexes (i.e. the substances naturally present in some plants) capable of performing the technological functions necessary to guarantee food safety and the organoleptic qualities of meat-based foods over time. In this regard, the research project 'phytome', thanks to which various producers of processed meats, even in Italy, have been able to use only plant extracts to naturally preserve their products.

La DG Health the European Commission itself, a little later, however, introduced an almost insurmountable obstacle to the development of this area of ​​research. Under the pressure of a bloc of Nordic countries - Germany and Denmark at the forefront - and in the incredulous silence of the governmental representations of the other Member States, Brussels has adopted a stance against the use of plant extracts with a secondary technological function. Apparently ignoring both the research projects funded by the institution itself and the growing demand of consumers to be able to choose nitrite-free meat products.

Il Paff - Standing Committee on Plants, Animals, Food and Feed, in which DG Sante and representatives of the health administrations of the Member States participate - unanimously adopted the opinion 17.9.18 on the use of plant extracts in food a technological function. (1) This opinion reconfirms the positions already expressed by the Commission in previous declarations of 2006 and 2010, (2) according to which plant extracts that exercise a secondary technological function in food (e.g. preservative, antioxidant, stabilizer, etc.) must always be qualified as food additives.

Such an approach, according to the PAFF opinion 17.9.18, does not apply only to extracts (fermented or not) that contain high levels of nitrates and / or nitrites, but to the totality of plant extracts capable of carrying out a technological function in food. Also in relation to plant extracts used in food products with primary function of aroma or aromatic preparation. Where flavorings are intentionally added to foods with a technological purpose other than flavoring, it would therefore still fall within the regime established for food additives.

Natural ingredients or food additives?

According to the PAFF, any 'functional' plant extract should be subjected to a specific prior authorization procedure (pursuant to EC regulation 1331/08 and following). As well as compliance with the relevant labeling requirements and conditions of use, like any other food additive, which postulate purity criteria. Criteria that are typical of substances obtained by chemical synthesis or biotechnology, but not as easy to guarantee on natural ingredients derived from plants, whose components are inevitably subject to variations linked to climatic, pedoclimatic and seasonal factors.

In reality, almost all of the plant extracts currently available in the Internal Market are not included in the list of additives in the Annex to reg. CE 1333/08. The compilation of which derives from a complex centralized authorization procedure, following an in-depth scientific evaluation of the technical and toxicological profiles by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). The safety of a rosemary essential oil should therefore be assessed with criteria similar to those used for a synthetic additive, without distinctions or simplifications of any kind in favor of natural substances used for centuries in the preparation of foods.

The dubious value of an interpretation

The European Commission with his right arm he finances innovation on the preservation of meat using plant extracts - with over one and a half million euros in subsidies (3) - and with his left arm he tries to stop the concrete development of that same research. Making the use of natural extracts subject to extremely onerous procedures means excluding SMEs and small-medium industries, or at least delaying theirs by a couple of years'time-to-market'. Just in time to allow the industrial giants of Northern Europe - the only ones capable of dealing with the complexity of dossier required by Efsa - to regain dominance on a promising market segment.

The legal value of the Commission's interpretations of the European regulations, however, is by no means a foregone conclusion. The official interpretation of EU law is indeed the exclusive prerogative of the European legislator and the Court of Justice. Which, in a recent ruling took a different position with respect to an orientation expressed in a guideline by the Commission with the consent of the Member States. Stating that the relevant document 'has no binding value'. And 'moreover, the same document in question states, in point 1, that it has no official legal value and that, in the event of a dispute, the interpretation of EU legislation ultimately rests with the Court.(4)

The proposed interpretation by the PAFF on 17.9.18, moreover, it is incompatible with another previous reading offered by the Commission itself regarding the legitimacy of the so-calledcoloring foodstuffs'. Natural ingredients of vegetable origin used precisely by virtue of their technological functions (dyes, like other food additives subject to specific regimes) yet allowed, under the conditions of use indicated by Brussels in the not far 2013. In a document that, combination ( !), was de-published from the DG Sante website as it is 'under revision'. (5) Double short circuit.

Affinity and differences 

The location of the BEUC, the confederation of associations that should guarantee the rights of consumers in Europe - subject to generous subsidies from the European Commission - in turn raises some doubts. (6) Curiously, the BEUC has bitterly fought against the use of plant extracts with a technological function in food. Alongside manufacturers and industrial users of artificial additives, that's right. Who should represent European consumers (and the SMEs that support them) therefore supports the positions of 'Big food'. (7) No one has ever doubted the safety of natural plant extracts (as was the case for nitrites, the subject of various attentions also by public research bodies).

It's not the first time that BEUC assumes a matrix position opposite to the interest of consumers. Just recently - in the discussion phase of the directive on unfair commercial practices - BEUC had taken on the defense of the European giants of large retailers. (8) Opposing the introduction of rules aimed at mitigating their abuses of power to the detriment of the micro-enterprises and SMEs their suppliers who translate, as explained, in the degradation of the quality of the products.

Combination, BEUC director general, Monique Goyens, sits in theAdvisory Board European Foundation 'Open Society'by speculator George Soros (protagonist of Bilderberg Club and trilateral commission). And who will ever represent Monique, 99,9% or 0,1% of consumers? Porchetta eaters with rosemary (additive?) Or the habitue of Beluga caviar? (9)

To the European Parliament, conversely, the PAFF's position did not garner applause. If any French MP had previously sympathized with the position 'Big Food & BEUC', the ban on the use of natural plant ingredients in meat has piqued the ire of British MEP John Procter. Who, by written question 4.2.19, asked the Commission to clarify its intentions regarding the use of ingredients of natural origin in meat products. (10) Among which are the examples of mustard, lemon juice and vinegar powder which have survived generations of consumers, without waiting for EFSA's evaluations.

Moment happiness, uncertain future 

The interpretation of the PAFF is bound to fall like the 'Bolas de Torooverloaded with nitrites so dear to the Commission and the industrial giants of Northern Europe:

- under the ax of the Court of Justice, if any national judge will have the opportunity to raise a preliminary question with the courts of Luxembourg. Or,

- in the 'trita-rules' system (court for the resolution of disputes between companies and states,'Investment Court System') provided by the scope of the CETA agreement. The complaint of a Canadian 'naturist' butcher will be enough to challenge the absurdity of the theorems of Brussels, Berlin and Copenhagen. In fact, Canadian legislation allows the use of functional plant extracts, provided that they do not carry high levels of nitrites / nitrates and that the information to the consumer is correct, (11) or

- thanks to an industrious repentance by the next European Commissioner. Who, however the elections go, can only be better than Vytenis Andriukaitis. (12) Hope survives, even the worst commission of all time.

Dario Dongo


(1) See https://ec.europa.eu/food/sites/food/files/safety/docs/reg-com_toxic_20180917_sum.pdf

(2) Cf. 'Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health', 14.12.06, https://ec.europa.eu/food/sites/food/files/safety/docs/regcom_toxic_summary23_en.pdf and 19.5.10, https://ec.europa.eu/food/sites/food/files/safety/docs/regcom_toxic_summary19052010_en.pdf  

(3) Cf. https://cordis.europa.eu/project/rcn/106044/factsheet/en

(4) See EU Court of Justice, Third Chamber, case

C-113/15, judgment 22.9.16, http://curia.europa.eu/juris/document/document.jsf;jsessionid=9ea7d0f130d63059ab0ab8bd4fcbab29f78d347e6876.e34KaxiLc3eQc40LaxqMbN4Pah4Qe0?text=&docid=183706&pageIndex=0&doclang=en&mode=lst&dir=&occ=first&part=1&cid=271033

(5) 'Guidance notes on the classification of food extracts with coloring properties - The guidance document is currently being reviewed by the Commission services'. Document disappeared from the page, with all due respect to the transparency of the administrative acts of the European Commission. V. https://ec.europa.eu/food/safety/food_improvement_agents/additives/eu_rules_en

(6) See BEUC, financial information, https://www.beuc.eu/about-beuc/financial-information

(7) See statements by BEUC to the plenary assembly of the 'Advisory Group On Food Chain, Animal and Plant Health', 27.4.18/19/XNUMX, page XNUMX, https://ec.europa.eu/food/sites/food/files/safety/docs/adv-grp_plenary_20180427_sum.pdf

(8) BEUC position on the UTPs directive ('Unfair Trading Practices') https://www.beuc.eu/publications/beuc-x-2018-091_unfair_trading_practices-agri_committee.pdf

(9) Monique Goyens and the 'Open Society Foundation’, https://www.opensocietyfoundations.org/people/monique-goyens. Brief notes on George Soros and the Bilderberg club onhttp://www.elzeviro.eu/affari-di-palazzo/paradosso-soros-bilderberg-nei-primi-giorni-del-governo-del-cambiamento.htmlhttps://www.globalresearch.ca/the-true-story-of-the-bilderberg-group-and-what-they-may-be-planning-now/13808

(10) See written question MEP John Ptocter (UK, ECR Group) to the European Commission, 4.2.19, http://www.europarl.europa.eu/doceo/document/E-8-2019-000640_EN.html

(11) Canada, the rules on meat and derivatives http://www.inspection.gc.ca/food/general-food-requirements-and-guidance/preventive-controls-food-businesses/meat/nitrites/eng/1522949763138/1522949763434

(12) Some references to the serious omissions and various bluffs of the 'useless commissioner' in the previous articles https://www.greatitalianfoodtrade.it/etichette/nutriscore-l-iniziativa-dei-cittadini-europeihttps://www.greatitalianfoodtrade.it/sicurezza/frodi-alimentari-un-problema-irrisolto-rapporto-eu-food-fraud-network

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Dario Dongo, lawyer and journalist, PhD in international food law, founder of WIISE (FARE - GIFT - Food Times) and Égalité.


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