Food colors are substances added to food to give a specific color to products and to diversify their range or to restore color that has been lost in natural enzymatic processes. The use of food colors and their authorized amounts is regulated by legal acts. In Poland, this is the Regulation of the Minister of Health of 18 September 2008 regarding the permitted additional substances. 

Natural dyes can be distinguished among food dyes, which are obtained, among others, from edible raw materials (eg carotenoids, curcuma, riboflavin) and synthetic dyes obtained by chemical synthesis. Synthetic dyes are substances of greater color intensity, durability, ease of use and lower costs of use than natural dyes. Particularly noteworthy are synthetic dyes from the Southampton group. What dyes stand out in this group, what characterizes them and where to find them and why they are dangerous to our health? 

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The name of the Southampton color group was adopted after the publication in 2004 and 2007 of research carried out at the University of Southampton. These studies tested the effects of the above-mentioned synthetic dyes on the increase of hyperactivity in children. 

The study group consisted of 297 children aged three, eight and nine. For a week, children were given a drink that contained four of the six dyes and a preservative – sodium benzoate (two mixtures were prepared). In the subjects, excessive speech, hyperactivity, ADHD syndrome, anxiety and concentration difficulties were observed. Therefore, it was unequivocally confirmed that the dyes used in the study contribute to the occurrence of hyperactivity in children. 

Based on the publication of the above studies, Regulation (EC) 1333/2008 of the European Parliament and of the Council was issued, which states that on every product containing one of the dyes (cochineal red, Allura red, sunset yellow, quinoline yellow, tartrazine, azorubine) must be found information can have a detrimental effect on activity and attention in children. 

Why are the dyes from the Southampton dye group harmful to health? 

In addition to harmful effects on psychomotor activity and concentration in children, Southampton dyes also show other adverse effects on the body. Although their use is allowed in the European Union, it has been banned in many countries. In addition to the E104 quinoline yellow, all these dyes belong to the group of azo dyes that contain azo groups in the molecule (-N = N-). In the body they can be reduced to aromatic amines – carcinogenic metabolites. 

Quinoline yellow E104 – is a greenish-yellow pigment, well soluble in water. Its use is banned in Japan and the USA, and in 2009, Great Britain withdrew from its use in food. Quinoline yellow acts as a triggering factor for histamine, thereby increasing the symptoms of asthma, causing allergies, rashes, urticaria and may lead to increased mobility excitability in children. 

Sunset yellow E110 – is a yellow-orange dye, resistant to the influence of temperature and light. It is banned in Norway and Finland. It may increase the symptoms of asthma, cause hyperactivity and cause allergies and abdominal pain. 

C12-chenilic red E124 – is a red dye, resistant to temperature and light. It is prohibited in Norway, Finland and the United States. It may increase the symptoms of asthma and cause allergy. Causes psychomotor hyperactivity in children. 

Allura Red E129 is a dark red pigment whose use has been banned in Denmark, Switzerland, France, Sweden and Belgium. It intensifies the symptoms of asthma and can lead to allergic reactions. Causes psychomotor hyperactivity in children. 

Tartrazine E102 – a lemon yellow pigment that, like the other azo dyes from the Southampton group, can increase the symptoms of asthma and hyperactivity in children. It can cause urticaria, headaches, hay fever and cause depression, itchy lips and tongue as well as insomnia. 

Azorubine E122 – is a red pigment that has been discontinued due to its harmful effects in Japan, Canada, the United States and the United Kingdom. It causes allergies, rashes and swellings and increases the symptoms of asthma. 

What products are the Southampton dyes added to? 

Azure dyes from the Southampton group are used in such products as 

– jelly, kissels, puddings, 

– sweetened non-carbonated and carbonated beverages, 

– dragees, dragees, chewing gums, lollipops, sweets, powdered sweets, hard candy, jellies, ice cream, colored dessert sprinkles, 

– plastic glaze and sugar mass, which are used to decorate cakes, cakes, cookies and muffins, 

– powder products, soluble beverages, colorful dessert toppings. 

The harmfulness of the Southampton dyes, mainly among children, should be forced to avoid consumption of products containing them in their composition. Therefore, one should give up colored beverages, jellies, dragées, candies, chewing gums, lollipops or look on their labels for the presence of dyes and a warning about the consequences of their consumption. In addition to the negative impact on activity, concentration of attention and causing hyperactivity in children, these dyes may cause allergy, increase the symptoms of asthma and cause headaches. 

Food contamination with formaldehyde – sources and health effects

According to the definition of food contamination, all substances that have not been deliberately added to the product but are found there due to residues of preparations used in crops and animal husbandry. Often, pollutants get into food as a result of inadequate transport, storage and processing of food products and raw materials. 

One of the sources of food contamination may be packaging used for storage and distribution of food products. Among the chemical compounds that can migrate from packaging material to food is formaldehyde (formaldehyde, methane). In the chemical industry, formaldehyde used for the production of synthetic resins, dyes, varnishes or car waxes. What are the causes of food contamination with formaldehyde and how can it affect our health? 

The reasons for food contamination with formaldehyde 

Cellulose-based materials from which food packaging is made require the use of chemicals such as preservatives, dispersing agents, fillers and paper glues. Formaldehyde is found in wood preservatives, pulp as well as ready-made paper. It is a component of paper glue, the use of which improves the strength and resistance of water paper. In addition to paper packaging, the source of formaldehyde migration to food can also be uncoated film (cellophane), to which a condensation product of formaldehyde and melamine is added during the manufacturing process. An additional source of food contamination can be smoke, the ingredient of which is formaldehyde. 

Health effects 

Directly into the body, formaldehyde can penetrate through the respiratory tract, skin and digestive tract. It can cause irritation such as tearing, sore throat, headache, conjunctival bacause, nausea, weakness and insomnia. Formaldehyde is oxidized in the body to formic acid, which in turn binds to enzymes containing iron. This can lead to inhibition of cellular respiration. Formic acid can also reduce the body’s detoxification potential by reacting with glutathione 

Formaldehyde was qualified by the International Agency for Cancer Research (IARC – International Agency for reasearch on cancer) for the 1st group of carcinogenic compounds. 

Legal regulations 

Paper, cardboard and other packaging intended for contact with food should be made of materials with appropriate operational parameters that ensure proper food protection and do not therefore affect its organoleptic properties. They also can not pose a threat to human life and health. 

In the European Union, the requirements for materials intended for contact with food are regulated by Regulation (EC) No. 1935/2004 of the European Parliament and of the Council of October 27, 2004. One of the groups of materials that are subject to additional restrictions is paper and cardboard. 

In order to check and ensure health safety for people, each material intended for contact with food is tested for migration of chemical compounds. For formaldehyde, the migration limit is 1 mg / dm2 of material. 

Regulation (EC) No 1935/2004 also defines the way of marking packaging intended for contact with food. Any material that does not exceed the upper limit of migration of chemical compounds is marked with the international symbol of the glass and fork. This symbol informs that a given material or packaging does not threaten human health and does not change the organoleptic characteristics of food. 

It is worth remembering that you should not use paper, cardboard or other materials not intended for contact with food. It is forbidden to store and pack food using packaging that is not intended for this purpose, eg paper for printers or newspapers. It is important to check the labels on breakfast papers, baking papers, plastic bags and look for a symbol or information placed for contact with food. 

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You can read also: Are instant products healthy?

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