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Re-evaluation of synthetic colours: State of the art

Food colours are used in foodstuffs such as soft drinks, bakeryproducts, desserts, sauces and confectionery to make them visually appealing to consumers. The most common synthetic food colours are mono-, di- and tri-azo dyes; triarylmethyl, quinoline, xanthene and indigoid structures are also used. Safety assessmentsof food colours date back many years, and consequently the 45 currently permitted food colours are undergoing re-evaluation by the European Food Safety Authority's (EFSA) Scientific Panel on Additives and Nutrient Sources in Food (ANS). This talk describes the re-evaluation of the synthetic food colours. The results to date have indicated some gaps in the toxicological data, particularly in relation to reproductive toxicity. EFSA has lowered the Acceptable Daily Intake (ADI) for several of these colours, and the authorisation for the colour Red 2G was withdrawn because of concerns regarding genotoxicity and carcinogenicity. The re-evaluation of six of the synthetic colours, Tartrazine (E102), Quinoline Yellow (E104), Sunset Yellow FCF (E110), Azorubine/Carmoisine (E122), Ponceau 4R (E124)and Allura Red AC (E129) was prioritised after a study published in 2008 by Southampton University linked consumption of these colours with hyperactivity in children. The ANS Panel concluded that the study provided limited evidence that certain mixtures of these food colours could have a small effect on some children's activity and attention, but overall the study did not justify changing the ADIs for the individual colours involved. However the Panel considered that the ADIs for Ponceau 4R, Quinoline Yellow and Sunset Yellow should be lowered, on different toxicological grounds.



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