The objectives of specifications published by the Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives are examined, and an explanation is given of the justification for a recent revision of the specification for gum arabic (Acacia senegal). Differences from the earlier version are summarised. The Revised Specification is a considerable improvement in chemical terms and offers increased protection for importers, deemed to be the manufacturers of consignments from the producing countries, and for food processors responsible for making labelling declarations. Unfortunately the maximum degree of safety assurance for consumers, which they are entitled to expect, is still not guaranteed. The revised specification remains inadequate to ensure that gum arabic in foodstuffs originates from the specified source, or complies in terms of identity, composition and quality with that of the test article selected for the toxicological evaluations that led to its classification as “ADI not specified” in 1983. The loopholes available to companies which may not be prepared voluntarily to accept the principles of good manufacturing practice are indicated.
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