National regulators move fast to remove Red 2G from products
to industry on the use of suspect food colour Red 2G (E128),
strongly urging reformulation in the light of EFSA's damning
opinion on safety.
The European Food Standards Authority issued its opinion this week, the first under its reassessment programme of food additives, after reviewing recent animal studies indicating that aniline, the substance into which it transforms in the body, should be considered as a carcinogen. EFSA's opinion does not have the force of law behind it, but the authority has withdrawn the ADI (accepted daily intake) established in 1981. An EC standing committee has been arranged for next Friday July 20 to discuss action at a European level. In the meantime, both the UK's Food Standards Agency (FSA) and the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) have confirmed that the ingredient is used in some meat products sold in their markets. The FSAI moved quickly to inform industry yesterday that Red 2G may no longer be used in food sold in the country. Dr Rhodri Evans, chief specialist toxicology at the FSAI, said: "We are instructing… manufacturers to stop using this colour as soon as possible." He added that most manufacturers have either already reformulated their products, or are in the process of doing so. All reformulations and changes to packaging are expected to be complete within a month. The FSA's statement to industry in the UK was couched as a recommendation that food producers stop using Red 2G. A spokesperson for the agency told FoodNavigator.com that it was "not in a position to put it in stronger terms" until after the standing committee meeting next week. In a bid to stem consumer concern, the FSAI reassured that the level used in meats and sausages is very low, but the withdrawal of approval is "a precautionary measure". Moreover, it deems the risk to public health to be so small that no products are being removed from sale. Sources have said they believe the UK and Ireland to be the main markets in Europe where Red 2G is used. The ADI for Red 2G was 20mg/kg was granted in 1981 for its use in breakfast sausages with a minimum cereal content of six per cent and in burger meat with a minimum vegetable and/or cereal content of four per cent. The EFSA allowed one small ray of hope. "The panel concluded that the tumour inducing mechanism of aniline be further elucidated, show to be threshold and/or its relevance for man discounted, Red 2G could be re-evaluated once more," said authorities' panel. However past experience suggests that once a food ingredient has been the subject of serious safety concerns it is unlikely to shrug off suspicion entirely with the publication of evidence to the contrary.