When it comes to food regulations, many countries have different requirements. However, the US and European food regulations are most common and work as the basis for many other countries. Below we look at how the US and European food regulations differ, and what you should know.
In the US, food regulations are handled by the FDA or Food and Drug Administration. This organization is responsible for public health across cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, medical devices, tobacco, food, and radiation-emitting electronics.
In Europe, food regulations are handled by the EFSA or European Food Safety Authority. The EFSA handles and enforces food regulations across all 27 members of the European Union and is not associated with a single government.
Within the EU all food and beverages for sale must have a label with essential information. This includes the name of the food, the full ingredients list (including additives), allergen details, and the percentage of certain ingredients. Furthermore, the ingredients list must be in descending order of weight. Any ingredient mentioned in the name of the product or on the label as a feature must have a percentage quantity marked. Allergens must be labeled in a different font, letter size, or color to ensure they stand out. Finally, all ingredients must also be listed using their legal name including any food additive codes.
Within the US most foods are required to have a label with ingredients and allergen information, however, for bulk items, this must only be on the main box. Additionally, not all additives are required to be listed, which includes processing aids, and substances that have no functional or technical effect. Ingredients should be listed in descending order of content unless there is less than 2% present, in which they can be listed in any order. All ingredients should also be listed by their specific name, not a generic name unless it is a spice, flavoring, coloring, milk product, egg product or chemical preservative. All allergens must be labeled
Food additive guidelines are much stricter in the EU. The EFSA requires proof that the additive is safe for human consumption. Thus, have banned the use of growth hormones, and many chemical additives.
In the US, the FDA takes a much less strict approach with many additives being allowed unless they are specifically proven to be harmful. Thus, many GMO ingredients, growth hormones, and chemical preservatives are on the approved list.
The US and EU food regulations differ in several ways, which can cause confusion among consumers. However, knowing that the EFSA tests each additive before allowing it helps to minimize the additives in food. This is also why the same product differs in taste, ingredients, and nutritional information in the US and the EU. When eating a balanced diet, aim to avoid foods with any additives, artificial colors, or artificial flavorings by eating whole foods. If in doubt and considering your health, typically you want to go with the European standards over the more lenient US standards.