Safety fears of synthetic colour additives dispelled by IACM studies

“The findings are intended to allay consumer concerns that may have developed due to a lack of sufficient information.” ©iStock/erierika

The safety of synthetic colour additives used in soft drinks, cereals and baked goods, were confirmed in a trio of studies as findings appear to back up recent EFSA and US authority findings.

The safety profiles of Allura Red AC (E129) and Tartrazine (E102) as well as their use amongst the US population "did not pose a health risk at conservative ranges of food consumption and levels of use."

“The findings are intended to allay consumer concerns that may have developed due to a lack of sufficient information,” said Dr Maria Bastaki, scientific director at International Association of Color Manufacturers (IACM).

“Continued use of these synthetic colour additives is safe even with high intake levels, which still register far below the safe daily level established by expert bodies such as the Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA).”

In two seperate studies, mice were subject to Tartrazine and Allura Red exposure in trials that were conducted in response to an additional information request by EFSA.

These studies, conducted by scientists from IACM, who also provided funding, subjected these animals to three dose levels of the additives, (25, 500, and 2000 milligrams per kilogram (mg/kg)) body weight on three consecutive days (0, 24 and 45 h).

As the studies were conducted to address EFSA concerns, dose levels tested for Tartrazine were selected to mimic levels tested in the study which was the basis of EFSA's concerns (study for Allura Red).

The presence of Tartrazine and Allura Red proved negative for genotoxicity in the bone marrow and the liver, stomach and colon.

Food additives in the US

Some of the researchers involved in the two studies also participated in another study. Here, seven colour additives and five ‘synthetic’ food colours were used to assess estimated daily intake (EDI).

Populations under examination included children aged 2–5 and 6–12 years, adolescents aged 13–18 years, and adults aged 19 or more in the United States.

Actual use data was collected from an industry survey of companies that are users of these colour additives in a variety of products, with additional input from food colour manufacturers.

Food-consumption data was obtained from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES).

Along with Tartrazine and Allura Red, other food colours analysed included Brilliant Blue, Erythrosine, Fast Green, Indigo Carmine and Sunset Yellow.

The Southampton study

European consumer concerns have lingered ever since the Allura Red and Tartrazine’s role’s in health were highlighted in the Southampton study.

Here, researchers at the University of Southampton in the UK presented evidence of increased hyperactivity in children consuming mixtures of certain artificial food colours.

Along with Tartrazine and Allura Red, the artificial colours Ponceau 4R (E124), Sunset Yellow (E110), Camoisine (E122), Quinoline Yellow (E104) were also under scrutiny.

The 2007 study was closely followed up in 2009, where the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) re-evaluated the data and stated that "the available scientific evidence does not substantiate a link between the colour additives and behavioural effects."

Referring to her team’s findings, Dr Bastaki said that the data filled a literature void of studies conducted according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) guidelines.

“If available publications report findings that indicate toxicity while their limitations are not communicated outside the scientific community, they negatively and needlessly skew public perception against synthetic colours,”

“IACM’s intent in commissioning these studies is to generate high-quality studies that provide reliable and accurate data, and make them accessible in the body of literature for the scientific community, regulators, and consumers alike.”


Source 1: Journal of Food Additives & Contaminants

Published online ahead of print:

“Estimated daily intake and safety of FD&C food-colour additives in the US population.”

Authors: Maria Bastaki, Thomas Farrell, Sachin Bhusari, Xiaoyu Bi, Carolyn Scrafford

Source 2: Food and Chemical Toxicology

Published online ahead of print:

“Lack of genotoxicity in vivo for food color additive Tartrazine.”

Authors: Maria Bastaki, Thomas Farrell, Sachin Bhusari, Kamala Pant, Rohan Kulkarni

Source 3: Food and Chemical Toxicology

 Published online ahead of print:

“Lack of genotoxicity in vivo for food color additive Allura Red AC.”

Authors: Maria Bastaki, Thomas Farrell, Sachin Bhusari, Kamala Pant, Rohan Kulkarni

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Comments (1)

Krishna - 10 May 2017 | 08:36

What EFSA says now

this is your observation. What EFSA recommends now. Have you submitted the data to EFSA

10-May-2017 at 08:36 GMT

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