Estimating exposure to chemically-defined flavouring substances raises special problems which are not encountered with food additives. These substances are extremely numerous and are used interchangeably and intermittently inside the many complex mixtures which are used to flavour foods and beverages. Furthermore, unlike food additives whose distributions of use levels tend towards levels of technological efficacy, the distributions of use levels of flavouring substances tend towards zero. The Scientific Committee for Food's Working Group on Flavourings is currently examining two approaches: one based on the quantities disappearing into the food supply and assumptions about the size of the consuming population (as used by the US FDA); and one based on maximum usage levels and upper-level consumption estimates of food items likely to contain the substances. Estimates obtained by the two methods can vary by a number of orders of magnitude and it is concluded that for some substances, both methods may actually over-estimate high exposure.

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