Aluminium-Containing Dyes

The amount of aluminum in the weekly diet of Europeans should not exceed 1 mg/ kg (EFSA opinion May 22, 2008). Should aluminum intake exceed these levels the substance may accumulate in the body (bone tissue, kidney, thyroid, liver) and interfere with the reproductive and nervous system. The main way of exposure to aluminum compounds for the population is food, either due to the natural presence of aluminum in food products or to the use of aluminum compounds in food processing and in the food additives. For these reasons, the permitted quantities of food additives containing aluminum, including aluminum dyes and lakes, were reduced (Regulation UE 380/2012 May 3, 2012). The regulation requires dyes manufacturers to reduce the use of aluminum pigments to the preparation of only the dyes included in a new list. Furthermore, the producers of dyes must indicate the aluminium content on the label.

Even though over recent years cases of sensitivity toward natural dyes (like carotenoids, chlorophylls and betain) have been reported, toxicological aspects of food colors mostly concern synthetic dyes with azoic structure, that represent the largest group of food colorants.

In particularly sensitive people, food dyes such as yellow (E102 Tartrazine) and red (E120 Cochineal, Carminic acid, Carmines) may induce allergic reaction (rash, hives, nasal congestion). Rare cases of asthma caused by tartrazine were reported as well.

Regulation UE 1333/2008 laid down, among the other rules, that starting from July 20, 2010, all foods containing Tartrazine E102, E110 Sunset Yellow FCF / Orange Yellow S, E104 Quinoline Yellow, E 122 Azorubine / Carmoisine, Ponceau 4R / Cochineal Red A E124 and Allura Red AC E129 must be labeled with an additional disclosure, containing phrase “may have an adverse effect on activity and attention in children” preceded by the name or E number of the color (with the exception of foods where the color has been used for the purposes of health or other marking on meat products or for stamping or decorative coloring on eggshells).

Regulation UE 232/2012, March 16, 2012, following the EFSA recommendation to reduce DGA for E104, E110 and E124, comes back on the issue and change the conditions and quantities of use for this dyes. The authority recommends to reduce the ADI of the following:

  • • Quinoline Yellow (E 104) from 10 mg/kg bw/day to 0.5 mg/kg bw/day
  • • Sunset Yellow FCF/Orange Yellow S (E 110) from 2.5 mg/kg bw/day to 1 mg/kg bw/day
  • • Ponceau 4R, Cochineal Red A (E 124) from 4 mg/kg bw/day to 0.7 mg/kg bw/day
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