Oplatowska-Stachowiak 2015: Food Colours: Existing and emerging food safety concerns

Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition. Feb 11;57(3):524-548.

In addition to the problem of illegal and carcinogenic food dyes being added to foods — and the ongoing need to detect them — there is growing concern about the safety of some of the legal food dyes as well.

Various detection methods are discussed.  The Southampton studies on food dyes are discussed, mentioning that the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) was unable to specifically determine their safety in spite of the recent requirement in the EU for labeling products containing them.  Many companies are phasing out the artificial colors due to consumer demand.  Meanwhile, new scientific data seems to have emerged on the genotoxicity of allura red (Red 40) and the EFSA have recommended more tests.

In some countries, more than 30% of sampled products contain illegal dyes, in addition to legal food dyes used in excessive amounts, indicating the enormity of the problem in the developing world.   This problem affects all countries, however, because ingredients and products are imported from country to country.  Some interesting do-it-yourself methods for determining the presence of some of the illegal dyes are described.

The authors conclude that further assessments of adverse health effects of dyes is important, because without them, “the ability to protect the consumer, most especially the most vulnerable (children) is highly compromised.”

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