European Commission Sets Maximum Amounts for Certain Antioxidants to Help Prevent Widespread “Tuna Fraud”
What does the EC's recent rule change regarding additives in tuna have in common with a 1945 case in the US regarding catsup? Neal Fortin discusses the latest news and considers the utility of standards beyond the surface of recipe control.
Neal Fortin is an Attorney, Professor, and Director of MSU's Institute for Food Laws and Regulations. Learn more about international and EU food laws with our online graduate courses for food industry professionals.
On October 10, 2022, the European Commission amended Annex II to Regulation (EC) No 1333/2008 of the European Parliament and of the Council on the use of ascorbic acid, sodium ascorbate, and calcium ascorbate in tuna, with the aim at combating fraud and at protecting consumers from the risk of histamine or scombroid poisoning. The European Commission noted, “the use of high amounts of food additives in tuna to artificially restore the colour of fresh tuna flesh provides an opportunity to deceptively market that tuna as fresh tuna, selling it at a higher price, misleading the consumers about the product and exposing them to the risk of histamine poisoning.”
This situation reminds me of the case, Libby, McNeil & Libby v. United States, 148 F.2d 71 (1945), where the tomato catsup standard did not permit added preservatives. Although it was agreed that sodium benzoate could be safely used to preserve the product, the preservative was prohibited to prevent an inferior product from being disguised and thus to protect consumers and the integrity of the market for catsup. The forces on the market and the concerns have changed since 1945, and preservative is no longer prohibited in catsup. However, the present situation with antioxidants and tuna reminds us of the utility of standards beyond the surface of recipe control. For more on the Libby case, see chapter 8 of Food Regulation: Law, Science, Policy, and Practice.
Note that in EU law, antioxidants are defined distinctly from preservatives. Antioxidants are substances that protect against deterioration caused by oxidation. Preservatives are substances that prolong the shelf-life of foods by protecting them against microorganisms. Annex I of Regulation (EC) No 1333/2008 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 16 December 2008 on food additives. On the other hand, in the US, antioxidants are a subgroup of preservatives.
Hat tip to FratiniVergano for their article on this revision of EU law.
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