Sunset yellow food colour holds sudan 1 risk

By Lindsey Partos

- Last updated on GMT

UK food agency alerts both food colour manufacturers and the
European Commission after local authority detects the banned food
dye Sudan 1 in a batch of legal Sunset Yellow food colour.

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) contacted food colour makers after new information came to light: that the manufacturing process for the common food dye Sunset Yellow could create low levels of the carcinogenic Sudan 1 red dye.

"We're advising them to take appropriate steps to alleviate the risk,"​ says a spokesperson for the FSA.

It appears the reaction of different chemical components in the Sunset Yellow manufacturing process was responsible for the small amounts of Sudan 1 identified by a UK local authority in Sunset Yellow.

"We don't think this is a deliberate use of Sudan 1,"​ the FSA tells

Levels of Sudan 1 were detected at four parts per million in the Sunset Yellow (E110), also known as FD&C Yellow no.6, used by food and beverage makers in soft drinks, sweets and sauces.

But the creation is not inevitable. According to the food agency, three out of the four batches of Sunset Yellow tested negative.

Raising issues of safety, a loophole in current EU food law allows up to 5 per cent of "subsidiary colouring"​ matter to be present as by-products.

But on the back of the new Sunset Yellow findings, the FSA contacted the Commission last month to propose an amendment to this existing element of the law, with the FSA suggesting that Sudan 1 should be banned.

The Commission agreed to draft an amendment to this particular weakness in the rules; and the FSA is hopeful the changes could occur within the next few months.

Confronted by growing consumer demand for natural and healthy foodstuffs, food makers are looking for alternatives to artificial food colours like Sunset Yellow, Tartrazine and Quinoline Yellow.

In July this year, for example, the UK's Co-op chain banned these three legal colours, along with nine others, "in direct response to [consumer] concerns"​.

Indeed, to date the food retailer has banned 21 colours, replacing them with naturally-derived colourings.

Market figures confirm the trend. While the European colouring market faces an annual growth rate of just 1 per cent between 2001 and 2008, the colouring foodstuffs market is ripping ahead on growth of 10 per cent to 15 per cent.

Related topics: Science, Food labelling

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