The various options to create smoky foods

Regulations of wood smoke and smoke flavourings

Conventional smoking in smoke houses is allowed as long as Good Manufacturing Practices are applied. The safety of the resulting smoked food is regulated by setting European limits for the presence of certain contaminants like PAH’s and heavy metals.

Smoke flavourings are regulated as a special group of flavourings. The safety of condensed smoke is evaluated by EFSA every 10 years. Suppliers need to submit a dossier to prove the composition, stability and safety of the condensed smoke, according EFSA-guidelines. This procedure has resulted in 10 authorisations, with limits for how much smoke can be used in each food category asked for in the dossier.

Current status

The existing authorisations will expire per June 30, 2024. Long story short: End of 2023 EFSA published their opinions on 8 dossiers, by which authorisation holders requested for renewal of those authorisations. EFSA communicated that for all dossiers genotoxicity could not be ruled out. The Commission followed this conclusion by communicating the intention to not renew the authorisations. Of course this led to a lot of reactions and turbulence in the market, with no clear solution yet. There are no alternatives developed yet, other than reverse to conventional smoking. The Commission has not come up yet with their decision that will be proposed to the Member States.

The regulations provide in an automatic 6 month extension of existing authorisations, in case of delays not caused by authorisation holders.

Why do we smoke?

By tradition, smoking is used to add flavour and texture and to preserve food products.

What are smoke flavourings?

Smoke flavourings are derived from wood smoke that is generated in a plant. All components from wood smoke are collected in a watery solution. Compared to traditional ways of smoking in a smoke-house, similar wood smoke is so-called ‘condensed’ in water under controlled circumstances, allowing further purification steps to remove potentially harmful components like PAH’s. Components that are not soluble in water will precipitate and be discarded from the liquid. Better control of optimized production processes of smoke flavourings significantly adds to reducing CO2 emissions and consumption of energy and water, leading to safer and more sustainable products. Condensed smoke can be seen as a raw material for many derived smoke flavourings, that can be used as flavouring (e.g. in soups and sauces, snacks, spice mixes), or applied in similar processes compared to conventional smoking, by creating a smoke cloud as a mist in a smoking chamber.


The use of smoke flavourings can be advantageous in many ways: For the consumer, it will lead to potentially safer products, as the safety of flavourings are under the supervision of EFSA, the European Food Safety Agency. Applying food flavourings improves the smoking of foods (better control of the smoking process, less emissions, consumption of energy and water at smoke houses). Consumers herewith indirectly contribute to environmental benefits. Some newer applications can even not be made otherwise. E.g. how to smoke potato chips to get a smoky taste?

The manufacturers of smoked foods benefit as well, with often higher capacities due to shorter smoking times, less rejected foods, less cleaning, and above all a safer working environment for their employees. And still, the food can be labelled ‘smoked’, usually indicating the use of the smoke flavouring in the ingredients list.


We understand that questions might rise due to the current situation. Please feel free to contact us, we are more than willing to help you.


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