No cancer concerns over paprika colour for foods: study

By Stephen Daniells

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Toxicology, Leatherhead food international

The increasing use of paprika as a food colour does not present any safety concerns for cancer or chronic toxicity, Japanese researchers have reported.

A study with rats showed that no effects were observed when consumed at a level of 2.5 per cent in the diet, while the no-observed-adverse-effect level (NOAEL) is five per cent in the diet, according to results published in this month’s issue of Food and Chemical Toxicology​.

“Considering increased in consumption of paprika colour as a food additive, safety assessment of this compound is an urgent matter,”​ stated the researchers from the Japanese National Institute of Health Sciences.

The researchers performed a 52-week and 104-week study with male and female rats, testing paprika colour at dietary concentrations of 0, 0.62, 1.25, 2.5 and 5 per cent, has redressed the balance, finding no concerns in terms of chronic toxicity and carcinogenicity.

While the researchers noted an increase in the male rats’ livers when the five per cent paprika treatment over 52-weeks, and stated that, for males, there were not toxicological effects regarding survival rates. No effects were observed in female rats at any of the dose levels tested.

The authors determined that the no-observed-effect level (NOEL) was 2.5 per cent in the diet, or 1253 mg per kg of bodyweight per day, for the male rats. The NOEL for the female rats was determine to be five per cent, or 2826 mg per kg of bodyweight per day.

In the 104-week carcinogenicity study, no detrimental effects were recorded in either male or female animals.

“The overall data strongly therefore suggest a lack of carcinogenicity of paprika colour under the present experimental conditions,”​ concluded the researchers.

Paprika colour market

The value of the international colourings market was estimated at around $1.15bn in 2007 (€731m), up 2.5 per cent from $1.07bn (680m) in 2004, according to Leatherhead Food International (LFI).

It said the most important single colour variety is caramel, with sales worth over $112m (€71m) in 2007. Meanwhile, other natural colours were worth $353m (€224m) in this year, up 4.6 per cent from 2004.

Natural colours now make up 31 per cent of the colourings market, compared with 40 per cent for synthetics, according to LFI.

Chr Hansen is the considered to be the largest single company in the natural colourings market, having been acquired by the PAI Partners private equity firm in 2005.

In terms of paprika, however, the Danish company sold its paprika business activities and production facilities in Spain and India in June 2007 in order to focus on value-added activities.

The business - which includes paprika and spice oleoresin, rosemary extract, paprika powder, turmeric, bixin and chlorophyll products - was sold for an undisclosed sum.

Source: Food and Chemical Toxicology​August 2008, Volume 46, Issue 8, Pages 2689-2693“Safety assessment of dietary administered paprika colour in combined chronic toxicity and carcinogenicity studies using F344 rats”​Authors: T. Inoue, T. Umemura, M. Maeda, Y. Ishii, T. Okamura, M. Tasaki, A. Nishikawa

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