Banned Food Dyes: A Guide for Students Pursuing Their Food Safety Diploma

Many people are concerned about the safety of food dyes

Many people are concerned about the safety of food dyes

Food colouring regulation has been one of the most controversial areas of food quality control for a long time. This is because over the years, some food dyes that were previously thought to be safe were eventually found to have harmful effects.

As new studies and information have emerged, food industry professionals have quickly adapted to new regulations in order to continue to meet safety standards. That’s why some dyes that were once the norm are now strictly limited or banned altogether. And if you’re planning to pursue a food safety career, staying on top of new regulations will become an important part of your job.

Regulations also tend to differ from country to country, which means that after graduation, students who work for companies which export products will need to be especially vigilant to ensure that these products meet international requirements.

Read on for a quick overview of which food dyes are banned, which are restricted and which are regulated in some countries but not others.

The Purpose of Food Dyes Explained for Food Safety Diploma Students

The main purpose of food colouring is to make foods look more appetizing. As you learn more about food production methods, you’ll notice that many food products lose their natural colour during the manufacturing process. Adding extra ingredients can also result in colour variations, and sometimes give a product an unappetizing colour that needs to be masked. Sometimes food colouring is even done for effect—such as in cake decoration—or to make a product more identifiable, like making strawberry-flavoured candy red, for example.

Food colouring is often used in cake decoration

Food colouring is often used in cake decoration

Restricted Usage of Dyes in Food Quality Assurance and Quality Control

As a result of increasing awareness of their potentially harmful effects, many previously common food dyes have been banned by food quality assurance and quality control authorities over the years. For example, one of the first commercialized dyes, FD&C Orange Number 1, was banned in the 1950s following a number of reports of illness in children.

Some other dyes which have been found to be harmful are still permitted in food products, but only for limited use. Citrus Red 2, which is carcinogenic, is still used to enhance the colour of orange skins, as Health Canada does not consider it a risk to people unless it is ingested. During your studies, you’ll also learn that most dyes have maximum levels of use in order to make them safe for consumption. These tend to vary depending on the product. For example, products such as milk and jam can contain up to 100 parts per million (ppm) of the dye Brilliant Blue FCF, but only 0.1 ppm is allowed in feta cheese.

Dyes Banned in Other Countries, But Permitted in Canada

Students in quality control training courses might be surprised to learn that a number of dyes used in Canadian products are banned in other countries. Tartazine and Sunset Yellow FCF, which are commonly found in popular products such as soda and cheese flavoured corn snacks, have been linked to hyperactivity in children, although this has not been conclusively proven. As a result, Finland has banned Sunset Yellow from its products, while Norway has banned both additives.

Some of the dyes Canada allows in products are banned elsewhere

Some of the dyes Canada allows in products are banned elsewhere

However, regulations are always changing, and Health Canada continues to conduct rigorous reviews of food products to make sure they keep people safe. Manufacturers are also striving to improve their processes, too. For instance, Kraft recently announced that it would be removing all artificial colours from its Canadian Kraft Dinner product by the end of 2016. Other companies are also taking similar measures, as the food industry looks to respond to consumer demand for more natural options.

Want to learn more about food production?

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