Thinking about E numbers competence stir adult images of hyperactive children guzzling fluorescent soothing drinks. But have we ever wondered what a E stands for?
Looking during this complement of food additives can assistance illustrate some of a tough issues confronting a British supervision as it prepares to leave a European Union.
The European Council introduced food caricature legislation in 1962 alongside a series sequence system. In a 1990s a intrigue was stretched to cover all additives available to be used in food sole in a EU and now forms a pivotal partial of UK food and splash regulation.
The supervision wants to start grave Brexit negotiations by a finish of March, after that UK laws will be done “not in Brussels though in Westminster”, according to Prime Minister Theresa May.
So will a UK embankment E numbers and come adult with a new complement for assessing and labelling food additives? And what about a many other areas of UK law now set by EU law?
Dial E for Europe
For a piece to be available for use as a food addition in a EU, it contingency be given an E series (the E stands for Europe). Codes like E101, E150d and E1209 are reserved to substances that change food colour, taste, shelf life or other properties.
For instance E160b, or annatto, gives Red Leicester cheese a particular glow.
E numbers are mostly compared with processed food. Some, like E122, might have inauspicious effects on children disposed to hyperactivity according to a NHS.
But many are ideally soft and lots are good for us, like E300, differently famous as Vitamin C.
At a impulse if a food association comes adult with a new additive, it contingency find permission from an consultant row during a European Food Safety Authority. This EU physique is done adult of scientists from opposite a continent, including dual from a UK.
They are experts in chemistry, toxicology and other applicable fields and accommodate frequently to consider that additives are safe. Once agreed, these substances contingency be clearly labelled on food sole in a UK or elsewhere in a EU.
What happens next?
As partial of a Brexit process, a supervision has announced it will deliver a “Great Repeal Bill” in a subsequent Queen’s Speech.
This will mislay a European Communities Act 1972 from a supervision book and bless all existent EU law into British law, before a supervision decides that to keep and that to jettison.
This is expected to embody EU regulations on food additives and labelling.
However such an proceed opens adult a series of other questions.
For example, what would occur when a EU changes a list of E numbers – will a UK adopt or omit a new rules?
If it adopts them, how does this block with a government’s wish that laws be done in Westminster and if it ignores E series changes, will domestic food companies be means to trade openly with European suppliers?
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The supervision says it will pull for a “freest probable trade” with a EU after Brexit.
But if a UK motionless to keep E numbers while not being underneath a office of European courts, there would need to be a new complement whereby a EU’s remaining 27 states could determine that UK products observe a rules, says Stephen Weatherill, highbrow of European law during Oxford University.
“It is over difficult – and this is loyal of thousands and thousands of such matters,” says Prof Weatherill.
But not everybody agrees.
“Some of a academics are creation it some-more difficult than they need to,” says Conservative MP Bill Cash, who chairs a House of Commons European Scrutiny Committee and is a long-standing believer of Brexit.
He says a UK might select to adopt standards like E numbers, though on a basement of intentional correspondence rather than by submitting to a EU’s authorised jurisdiction, enforced by a European Court of Justice.
Not most change?
There are many other unused questions when it comes to E numbers.
How will standards set by a UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation be incorporated, will a UK set adult a possess consultant row and will E numbers be renamed – “UK numbers” perhaps?
Nobody is utterly certain of a answers yet.
These uncertainties hang over many areas of UK law that now come from a EU, like plantation subsidies, purify appetite targets and fishing rules.
But if non-EU Switzerland is a model, we might simply keep many existent structures. Switzerland uses E numbers and belongs to lots of identical schemes like a European Health Insurance Card.
“There might not be as most change as people are perplexing to advise there would be,” says Mr Cash.
The Brexit negotiations will engage copiousness of large inherent issues, though there are many apparently smaller things, like E numbers, that will need to be sorted out as well.