Food dye banned over health concerns


The food industry in Ireland will be banned from using a certain red dye after EU research found it may have the potential in large doses to cause cancer.

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) panel on food additives and flavourings yesterday described the dye Red 2G, used to colour products such as sausages and burgers, as being "of safety concern".

The Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) said today the risk of consuming the dye in the small quantities as very low but that it will no longer be permitted.

Following a re-evaluation of the colour - known as Red 2G or E128 - the EFSA revised its previous advice on how much of the additive people could safely consume. Manufacturers have been asked to stop using the colour immediately, but products on sale already containing it will not have to be removed from the shelves.

According to the FSAI, Red 2G converts in the body into a substance called aniline that is believed may be linked to cancer.

"An EFSA expert panel is studying all approved additives systematically and in considering Red 2G looked at recent reviews on the safety of aniline," the FSAI said.

These reviews found that in large concentrations, aniline may cause cancer in animals. Researchers could not discount the possibility that it could also damage DNA, the key building block of human life and cells.

Dr Rhodri Evans, chief specialist in toxicology with the FSAI, said Red 2G has been approved for use as a food additive for a number of years but that it is only permitted to be used at very low levels in breakfast sausages and burger meat.

"The main manufacturers have either already reformulated or are in the process of reformulating their recipes to remove this colour. This process should be complete within a month, including any changes to packaging. We are instructing other manufacturers to stop using this colour as soon as possible," he said.

Additional reporting: PA