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Colours and Food Safety Regulations

17,June, 2016


Humans are always attracted by sweets and drinks bearing pleasant colours. Adding attractive colours can definitely enhance the appetizing value of foods and drinks. Colour additives are not only being used by large manufacturers and street vendors but also at home to colour food and allied products, primarily to make them attractive and more appetizing.
Certified colour additives are available for use in food products as either dyes or lakes. Dyes dissolve in water and are marketedas powders, granules and liquids. They can be used in beverages, baked goods, dry mixes, dairy products, confections, and a variety of other products. Lakes are water insoluble and solubilized in oils. Lakes are more stable than dyes and are ideal for colouring products containing fats and oils or items lacking sufficient moisture to dissolve dyes. Typical uses include cakes, coated tablets, doughnut mixes, chewing gums and hard candies.
Besides, most of the consumers lack knowledge regarding artificial and natural colours. Artificial colours are originally derived from coal tar and petroleum sources whereas natural food colours are extracted and isolated from various plants and animals. Most of the artificial colours are considered hazardous for human health. Therefore, uses and public health hazards caused by some of the artificial colours are given here, in brief.
Blue 1 is used in beverages, candy and baked goods. It may lead to a small cancer risk. Blue 2 is used in beverages and candy. It may lead to brain tumours. Citrus red 2 is used in skin of some oranges only. It may lead to cancer by the use of peel. Green 3 is used in candy and beverages. It may lead to bladder cancer. Red 3 is used in cherries in fruit cocktail, candy and baked goods. It may lead to thyroid tumours. Red 40 is used in soda pop, candy, gelatin desserts, pastry, and sausages. It is most widely used and its harm is not consistent. Yellow 5 is used in gelatin desserts and candy and baked goods. It is the second most widely used colour which causes mild allergic reactions, particularly in aspirin-sensitive persons. Yellow 6 is used in beverages, sausages, baked goods, candy and gelatin. It is the third most widely used colour which causes tumors of the adrenal gland and kidney.
Tartrazine yellow is used in sugar confectioneries. It is a permitted colour, causes irritability, restlessness and sleep disturbance in hypertensive children. Metanil yellow is used in sweets and sugar confectioneries. It is a frequently used non-permitted food Colour which causes methaemoglobinaemia.
However Food Safety & Standards Act 2006, rules/Regulation 2011, permits only few synthetic clours that too at manufacture level to the extent not more than 100ppm
According to the Food Safety & Standards Act2006, following synthetic colours shall be used in food not more than 100Parts per million:
S. No.
Common name
Chemical Class
Ponceau 4R
Sunset Yellow FCF
Indigo Carmine
Brilliant Blue FCF
Fast Green FCF
Use of permitted colors upon any food other than those shown below is prohibited:
a) Ice-cream.
b) Dairy items except milk, dahi, butter ghee, chann, condensed milk, cream and child food.
e) Sweets such as pastry and confectionery.
f) Fruit products.
g) Non-alcoholic beverages except tea, cocoa and coffee.
h) Custard powder.
i) Jelly crystals.
However in the state of Jammu and Kashmir particularly in Kashmir most of hotels and restaurants are using synthetic colours in the most tasted dish of Kashmiri Wazan, Chicken and Beryani. Though Food Safety wing of Drugs &Food Control organization Srinagar has launched a drive against defaulters more than 50 Samples has been taken from various Food Establishments, where in some of the restaurants ,spices and Pickle manufactures were found using synthetic colours in their products and same were declared unsafe by Public Health Laboratory Srinagar and Referral Food Testing laboratories .though Prosecutions in the competent courts has been launched against defaulters for selling unsafe food articles but at the same time public awareness regarding food colours is important.
Under Food Safety & Standards Act 2006,addtion of colouring matter to a food article wherein it is not permitted can make food item unsafe .There is stringent punishment for manufacture/sale of unsafe food article under Food Safety & Standards Act 2006,rules/regulation 2011 .
Any person who, whether by himself or by any other person on his behalf, manufactures for sale or stores or sells or distributes or imports any article of food for human consumption which is unsafe, shall be punishable, with a imprisonment for a term which may extend to six months and also with fine which may extend to one lakh rupees; in case of non-grievous injury.
· However incase of grievous injury due to unsafe food item, the imprisonment may be extended to six years and also with fine which may extend to five lakh rupees.
· Also if consumption of unsafe food article results in death, the imprisonment for a term shall not be less than seven years but which may extend to imprisonment for life and also with fine which shall not be less than ten lakh rupees.
Here are a few suggestions to tackle the hazardous caused by food colours of major concern. Food manufacturers using colours in their products should submit their samples to analyze the established specifications in order to ensure public safety. Using chromatography and other sophisticated techniques, Food Analysts or an approved laboratory should test these submitted food samples in order to confirm that whether the colours used are safe or not. In case of any ambiguity, they must report to concerned authorities about such food manufacturers.
Moreover, colours should be used within permissible limit. For this purpose, government should take steps to frame a monitoring system for monitoring and investigations of all public complaints and reactions concerning to those foods having colours above permissible limit. Such a system should also ensure appropriate action against manufacturers of those foods.
Drugs and Food Control Organization Jammu and Kashmir should consider the composition and properties of foods (having colour additives) being prepared in factories as well as by vendors, the amount likely to be consumed, its probable long-term effects and various safety factors. Regulations related to food colours should be implemented, including the type of foods in which these can be used, the maximum amount to be used in different foods and how they should be identified on food product’s labels.
– The writer is Food Safety Officer Srinagar and the main aim for mentioning above hazards of food colours and their preventive measures is to create public awareness especially in children, who relish so much sweets, chocolates, candies and related products.

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