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Science & Technology

Yummy but harmful

2 Comments
Author(s): Dinsa Sachan
Oct 31, 2011 | From the print edition

Indian markets are flooded with foods that contain colours beyond permissible limits

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NEXT time you salivate at the sight of a juicy, yellow rasgulla, consider this: the dye used to colour it could be harmful.

Scientists at the Indian Institute of Toxicology Research (IITR), Lucknow, have found that the country’s markets are flooded with foods that contain colours beyond permissible levels. Around 12 per cent of food products, especially those consumed by children like candyfloss and sugar toy, contain colours banned by the government.

The team tested both branded and unbranded foods like candyfloss, sugar toys, beverages, mouth fresheners and bakery products in 16 states. They found that the levels of food colours in more than half of the products exceeded the accepted daily intake limit of 100 mg/ kg prescribed by the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India. The study was published in the August issue of Food Additives and Contaminants. “While reputed shops in most towns used permitted colours, the quantity was much beyond the permitted levels,” says Mukul Das, senior scientist with IITR. Among the states, West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh were the biggest flouters. They used prohibited colours to the extent of 27 and 25.8 per cent respectively.

Studies have shown that overuse of tartrazine (yellow colour) in jam and jellies can cause irritability in children. A study by the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences, Bengaluru, found that metanil yellow used in jalebis is neurotoxic to rats. The colours also impair growth in children.

IITR, however, refused to reveal the names of the brands. Ravi Agarwal, convenor of the non-profit Toxics Link, says that while it is acceptable for an organisation not to reveal the names, the government should follow up the matter and regulate use of colour in food products. But V Sudershan Rao, a food safety expert at the National Institute of Nutrition, Hyderabad, points that this might be difficult. “The standards are to be implemented by the state but they do not have enough food inspectors,” he adds.

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It is a known fact that some of the food article contains artificial colours beyond permissible limits or even sometimes non-permitted colours are used. The main reason behind this is ignorance specially in rural areas where Food Safety Officer never visit for vested interest. When law makers cannot implement the same than what is the use of making huge bulky rules in the name of safety or making country fool. In the name of states you cannot shirk from your responsibility towards the country.

23 October 2011
Posted by
satya Prakash

Can author will provide me with the names of food colors banned by government? Since I am teacher and as per my knowledge The Food safety and Standards Act 2006's Regulation 2011 ie Food Standards and Additives gives details.Can the report of IITR be available to me for study?

5 July 2013
Posted by
Prajakta

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