HOW WE WORK
NATCOL is an international Association administered through an Executive Committee, comprising of a President, Vice-President, Treasurer and other elected members.
The Association is managed by its Secretariat currently operating from England and its general governing body is the General Meeting that gathers all Members at least once per year (AGM).
The Association works through Working Groups and Task Forces.
To increase efficiency, Members get together in expert Working Groups to examine specific issues in detail. The current Working Groups are:
Working Group Legislation (WGL)
The Working Group Legislation (WGL) main role is to provide for a forum for all Members to discuss any legislation which is of particular interest and/or directly impacting natural food colors and/or Coloring Foods manufacturers and users.
The WGL aim is to anticipate legislative changes and seek to influence decision-making processes at EU and international levels (e.g. European Commission, Codex Alimentarius, US Food and Drug Administration).
It reaches and co-ordinates common positions on regulatory issues related to natural food colors and Coloring Foods and required lobbying actions.
Working Group on Defining ‘Natural color’ (WGNC)
Because of an increasing consumer preference for the use of natural colors in food products, this WG was established to review the definition of “Natural Color” to help consumers make a fair and informed choice, based on clear and informative labelling.
NATCOL adopted in 2009 two main documents: a “Position Paper on Natural Colours” and the “NATCOL Classification of Colours”. NATCOL classifies food colors into four categories based on the key discriminators (i.e. occurrence in nature, source material used, and manufacturing process employed) and suggests labelling guidelines for each category.
NATCOL’s approach is clearly different from the one presented in the ISO Technical specifications on the “Definitions and technical criteria for food ingredients to be considered as natural” which intends to define “natural food ingredients” for use in B2B communication. Therefore, NATCOL decided to position itself regarding this ISO document and finalised a document dated 2017.
NATCOL Working Group on Codex (WGC)
NATCOL is a Codex Observer and is actively involved and contributes in priority to the work of the Codex General Standard for Food Additives, the International Numbering System for Food Additives and the Alignment of food additives provisions in standards. Its main aim is to support and extend the safe use of natural colors worldwide.
Working Group on coloring Foodstuffs (WGCF)
The Working Group on Coloring Foods coordinates NATCOL’s position with regard to the manufacturing and use of Coloring Foods. It has developed a Code of Practice to provide support to manufacturers and users in understanding the EU provisions that govern Coloring Foods as well as their scope and application. It represents common and current industry practice concerning the classification, manufacture, use and labelling of Coloring Foods. The Group also aims at clarifying the use of Coloring Foods at Codex level.
Working Group on Communication (WGCOM)
The main aim of this Working Group is to continue to strengthen NATCOL’s position as the global reference association for natural colors and Coloring Foods. It is working on presenting and explaining natural colors for encouraging their use globally.
The scope of Task Forces is to provide scientific/regulatory evidence on individual or groups of a Natural Colors/Coloring Food or to support geographic regions.
- Vegetable Carbon
Annatto. It was originally set up in 1998 to produce the dossier for the JECFA evaluation of Annatto Extracts (2003 & 2006). The Task Force also prepared and submitted data to EFSA, including specific additional genotoxicity testing, in the framework of its re-evaluation of annatto extracts as food additives. The EFSA scientific opinion on the safety of annatto extracts E 160b issued on 24 August 2016, evaluated positively and accepted as safe four out of five of the annatto extracts. The exposure assessment of annatto coloring principles bixin and norbixin (E 160b) when used as food additives was then issued on 13 July 2017.
In the meantime, NATCOL completed the necessary (mutagenicity) tests regarding the safety of the fifth annatto extract (Annatto E) and reviewed the bixin/norbixin levels for specific Food Categories by strengthening technical justifications. The EFSA scientific opinion published on 13 March 2019 on the safety of annatto E and the exposure to the annatto coloring principles bixin and norbixin (E 160b) when used as a food additive concluded that Annatto E does not raise genotoxicity concerns and that the level of exposure does not raise a health concern. Therefore, thanks to this Task Force and the scientific studies it commissioned, all five Annatto extracts have been re-evaluated by EFSA positively.
Finally, the Task Force answered all the issues/questions raised by the EU Commission and Member States when setting new annatto specification which was published in Commission Regulation 2020/771 of 11 June 2020 amending Annexes II and III to Regulation (EC) No 1333/2008 of the European Parliament and of the Council and the Annex to Commission Regulation (EU) No 231/2012 as regards the use of Annatto, Bixin, Norbixin (E 160b).
Anthocyanin. In March 2013, the EFSA scientific opinion on the re-evaluation of Anthocyanins (E 163) as food additive concluded that aqueous grape skin and blackcurrant extracts are unlikely to present a safety concern. The Task Force therefore decided to collected data and commissioned a report on the characterization (compositional data and anthocyanins profiling in purple colored vegetables) of 4 main new sources of anthocyanins, i.e. Black carrot – Red radish – Red cabbage – Purple sweet potato. The general objective being to try to read across the results for grape skin extract and blackcurrant to the four new sources. The report was finalised in 2018 but the work was put on hold to allow the Task force to supply data for a Codex monograph on Black carrot to JECFA by December 2018. On the basis of the feedback received from JECFA, the Task Force then decided that the best approach was to develop a global scientific project on anthocyanins the results of which would be used towards both EFSA and JECFA.
NATCOL would then be able to answer EU DG SANTE Call for data on anthocyanins and revert back to JECFA on the monograph on black carrot. This work will clearly impact all types of anthocyanins based colors and Coloring Foods, helping the industry to set robust specifications and evaluation at EU and Codex levels so expanding anthocyanins specifications/regulation worldwide.
Carmine. It was created for the development of outstanding genotoxicity studies on Carminic Acid containing products which were submitted to EFSA, as part of the re-evaluation of Cochineal, Carminic acid, Carmines (E 120). The EFSA scientific opinion was published in December 2015 and outlined the need for revision of the E 120 specification amongst other recommendations.
The Task Force collected additional scientific data and information in order to be able to answer all the EFSA recommendations and the EU Commission and Member States’ questions. In September 2018, the EU Commission finalised its re-evaluation process by issuing Regulation 2018/1472 which presents the new specifications for Cochineal, Carminic acid and Carmines (E 120). These specifications are in line with NATCOL’s supportive scientific evidence and its dedicated research.
Carotenes. It has been created mainly to update specifications for E 160 a (i, ii, iii, iv) on the basis of the 2012 EFSA scientific opinion on the re-evaluation of mixed carotenes (E 160a (i)) and β-carotene (E 160a (ii)) as a food additive. The Task Force collected information and data on the basis of the EFSA recommendations and made a data gap analysis to make sure it will be able to cover all potentially pending issues.
At the same time, NATCOL decided to answer JECFA’s call for data on β-carotene, β-carotene from Blakeslea Trispora, β-apo-8′-carotenal and β-apo-8′-carotenoic acid methyl and ethyl esters but to only focus on β-carotene, β-carotene from Blakeslea Trispora and β-apo-8′-carotenal. NATCOL worked on specifications, toxicology and intake on which it submitted data to JECFA in January 2019. However, based on the same scientific data used by EFSA which concluded that there is no evidence of safety concerns at current used levels as a food color, JECFA decided to withdraw the Acceptable Daily Intake (ADI) of the Carotenoids group and recommended to review current uses of β-carotene (synthetic β-carotene, β-carotene from Blakeslea Trispora and β-carotene-rich extract from Dunaliella Salina) and β-apo-8ʹ-carotenal in the GSFA, including the MPLs and the food categories in which these food additives may be used. This unprecedented situation at Codex level leads to uncertainty and concern for these products. The Task Force is therefore now focusing on the best way to solve this situation.
Chlorophylls. The publication of the EFSA scientific opinions on E 140i & E 140ii were made in May 2015 and on E 141i & E 141ii in June 2015. The opinions concluded that Chlorophyll itself was not of safety concern because it was a part of the normal diet but EFSA considered that there was limited data available and more research would be required to fully assess all these products. Following NATCOL and other associations’ requests, operators were allowed to continue to sell the products and given an opportunity to carry out the needed safety studies. The Task Force decided to answer the 2017 Call for data published by the EU Commission and submitted a project plan to provide the needed data only for E 140(i) chlorophylls (data on chlorophylls derivatives are not a NATCOL submission). A complete data set was collected, compiled and submitted to the EU Commission end 2018 and beginning 2019. EFSA will publish its opinion after it will evaluate all the chlorophyll products as a group.
Lutein Task Force main aim is to follow and support lutein and lutein esters at Codex level.
Lycopene. It was formed to work on the potential extension of use for Lycopene (E 160d).
Paprika. It prepared the submission for JECFA evaluation of Paprika Extracts (2008) with a successful outcome in June 2014. The Task Force also submitted data to EFSA in the framework of its re-evaluation of Paprika Extract (E 160c) in September 2014 that led to a successful EFSA scientific opinion in December 2015.
The Task Force also prepared and presented for adoption provisions for the use and use levels of Paprika Extract INS 160c (ii) into the step process of the GSFA at the Codex Committee on Food Additives in 2017 and continues to support them as they progress through the step process to adoption.
Safflower. It was created in 2018 in order to start collecting and assess data currently available via literature review on the consumption of safflower.
Spirulina. The first purpose of this Task Force was to review in more details the JECFA monograph on spirulina extracts proposal made by IACM in December 2017, as well as answering JECFA’s questions related to this monograph. To this end the Task Force gathered the JECFA’s requested information on the compositional data of spirulina extracts and validated analytical methods for the identification of the extracts and the determination of the microcystins in Spirulina extracts. NATCOL’s submission to JECFA is expected by 2021.
Vegetable Carbon. It was created in 2007 to provide information to EU Commission on E 153 in the framework of the re-evaluation of vegetable carbon as food additive. As manufacturers of the color E 153 are not members of NATCOL, this involved contacting suppliers, collect and compile data through an external consultancy and prepare a report. NATCOL answered DG SANTE questions in 2010 and 2011 before the publication of the EFSA opinion on E153 in 2012. In order to prepare specifications, EU Commission issued a Call for technical data end 2020 and the Task Force asked that same consultant involved in 2007 to continue his work directly and independently with the producers to submit the data requested.
US. It was created in order to expand the presence of NATCOL outside the EU to better address the US specific needs for natural colors. The Task Force monitors regulatory topics of interest and directly engages with the US FDA and other regulatory entities on issues of interest as well as other trade associations based in US. The Task Force also coordinates actions with the NATCOL Codex Working Group on relevant topics of interest.
Note: When Task Forces finalise their work they become “dormant” (e.g. on Lycopene or Curcumin).