Artificial colours in food linked to cancer and behavioral disorders in children: Study

Artificial colours in foods, scientists have found may increase the risk of getting cancer, allergies and may trigger hyperactivity in susceptible children. This new report entitled, “Food Dyes: A Rainbow of Risks”, has come from the research conducted by the Centre for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI).

The US recommended common colours have been studied. CSPI executive director Michael F. Jacobson, co-author of the report said, “These synthetic chemicals do absolutely nothing to improve the nutritional quality or safety of foods, but trigger behaviour problems in children and, possibly, cancer in anybody.”

According to the CSPI the colours contain known cancer causing chemicals that have been shown to cause cancer in experimental rats. Common confectionaries and foods like biscuits, cereals, ice creams and cordials contain large amounts of these harmful colours. According to estimates seven million of these colours are used in manufacturing foods each year.

Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) and the US Food and Drugs Administration (FDA), have been keeping a close watch on the findings of the study. Lydia Buchtman from FSANZ said, “We are currently assessing the data and if there is good scientific evidence, we can and will make changes.” Come Tuesday, European food manufacturers will be forced to put a warning on their food products labels if they contain any of the colours of the “Southampton Six” following a study on the issue. The name Southampton six was given to these six colours after a similar study at the Southampton University in 2008. The six colours known as the Southampton six are: sunset yellow (E110), quinoline yellow (E104), carmoisine (E122), allura red (E129), ponceau 4R (E124), and tartrazine (E102). The warning will read, “May have an adverse effect on activity and attention in children.” In Australia, the colours are found in 1154 products, mostly foods that are for children.FSANZ as of now has no plans to follow Europe's lead by requiring manufacturers to apply warning labels.

Dr. Ananya Mandal

Written by

Dr. Ananya Mandal

Dr. Ananya Mandal is a doctor by profession, lecturer by vocation and a medical writer by passion. She specialized in Clinical Pharmacology after her bachelor's (MBBS). For her, health communication is not just writing complicated reviews for professionals but making medical knowledge understandable and available to the general public as well.

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