Anyone who does not want dyes in what they eat and trusts that they will be made aware of these additives as a result of the declaration obligation has a bad hand – for example with short crust pastry or cream cake made with margarine. This is because, in most cases, they contain beta-carotene, which does not necessarily have to be listed. The Additives Regulation, which could actually – at least to a large extent – be regarded as a kind of declaration exemption regulation, provides customers and consumers with such subtleties. One element of the regulation is the so-called “carry-over” regulation. It describes the transition of an additive (e.g. flour treatment agent) from a food precursor (wheat flour) to the finished food (cake). And now for the trick: the labeling of additives is not necessary if they have only been added to certain ingredients (precursors) of a foodstuff and no longer have a technological effect on the finished foodstuff. In other words, the taste, appearance or shelf life of the product are not affected by the substances. Tricky? Even better, the authorization regulation allows the use of additives in food precursors when they are not authorized for finished products. The magic formula here is the same: the substances are permitted and do not have to be declared if they have no technological effect on the end product.
This legislation ensures that additives can be found in foods in which they actually have no business at all. Another example of this are fruit preparations preserved with additives and used in milk-based desserts which must not be preserved themselves. The ingredients that are preserved in the fruit premix added to the product will not appear on the final list of ingredients.
“Carry-over” – what does “technologically effective” mean here?
Additives such as emulsifiers, dyes or thickeners have different and varied effects. Their modes of action are classified according to class designations. However, the technological efficacy of the substances depends on the products they are used to manufacture. In other words, one and the same additive may well be technologically effective in one finished food product, but not in another. One more example: a dye added to a product via an ingredient is no longer visible in the end product. There may be different reasons for this. For example, the amount added can be correspondingly small, or coloring with other raw materials (roasted malt, cherry juice, etc.) can overlay the coloring of the ingredient. In this case, the dye from the precursor does not have to be labelled. One example would be the beta-carotene in a margarine, which is no longer visible in the baked end product (the bread roll) with an addition of one percent to the bread roll dough. Also invisible is the dye in a cocoa-brown chocolate cake, because the added cocoa completely destroys the dye in the margarine. If an additive in the finished product is no longer effective in the class specified in the intermediate product, it is no longer considered an ingredient of the foodstuff according to the corresponding statutory provision. And this means that it may not be included in the list of ingredients or, in the case of bulk goods, must not be included in the labeling list. Things would of course be different in the case of a cake with a cream made of margarine, which looks slightly orange because of the beta-carotene. Here the coloring must be declared. That is, unless an egg yolk – which is also orange – was used when cooking the vanilla cream. Evil to him who evil thinks: “Here you only have to declare what is obvious to everyone.” If, on the other hand, the dye is not visible, it does not need to be listed. According to the “carry-over” regulation, it is irrelevant whether the substance is still detectable in the finished food or not.
There is a clear exception to this rule, however, if the additives contain an allergenic substance. It is mandatory that such ingredients be named – regardless of whether they are still technologically effective or not. By the way, the rule of thumb is that a technological effect is achieved if the food additive used produces a sensory property perceptible in the end product – such as odor, taste, color – or a life-prolonging effect – such as preservation or freshness. A counter test is the abstract question of whether something would change in the end product if the additive were removed from the food. For example, preservatives could be added to the cherry filling used of a cream roulade. However, as the cake cannot be kept for more than one day (because the cream tips over beforehand), the additive does not need or must not be listed.
A curiosity on the side: the “Carry-over” regulation applies to all additives, aromas, enzymes and microorganism cultures which have reached the finished food via purchased preliminary products. Any additives that do not enter the food via intermediate products, but are added directly to the recipe as raw materials, must always be declared. This distinction makes no sense at all, but it is laid down in laws.
There are bakery producers who even take advantage of this jungle of regulations.
Under the catchword “Clean Label” they offer seminars with rather questionable interpretations. The goal is to encourage participants to continue using baking improvers and premixes containing additives which are safe for production. With a bit of skill, the list of ingredients can still be kept clean.
Our view at Clean Label is, of course, a different one. We believe that all raw materials used in food production must follow the clear guidelines of a certain philosophy. This also applies when they do not have to appear in the list of ingredients. For example, the additive E 466 (sodium carboxymethyl cellulose) can easily be exchanged for guar gum in long-term doughs. This natural substance is not only more readily accepted by consumers, but is also much easier to explain (keyword: transparency).
This article shows that the way through the jungle of regulations is dense and full of stumbling blocks. In our forum we are happy to discuss the benefits and dangers of carry-over.