Use of harmful colours in food items on decline: Study

Kathmandu, June 19:

There has been a significant decline in the use of harmful inedible colours in food items sold in the valley lately.

A recent study of the Department of Food Technology and Quality Control (DFTQC) showed that only one out of 511 suspicious samples collected in the valley was found laced with inedible colour.

The DFTQC had collected samples of food items such as black gram, different kinds of locally made sweets, fruit juice, tomato ketchup and potato chips. These samples were tested for the colour indicator to find out if the colours were edible and within the prescribed safe level (200milligram/kg).

An inedible colour Rhodamine B (Red) was found in a sample of ‘puri’, a kind of sweet, in the test while edible colours within the safe amount were found in other samples.

Out of the 222 samples tested in the valley in the fiscal year 2003/2004, 19 food items were found laced with inedible colours, the annual report of the DFTQC said.

The report of 2004/2005 said that eight out of the 274 food samples were found laced with inedible colours.

“Organic and natural colours like turmeric, saffron, chlorophyll and caramel are safe for consumption. Synthetic colours like tartazine, sunset-yellow and carmoisine could be used but in limitation and in the prescribed food items,” said Nawa Raj Dahal, food research officer at DFTQC.

“However, inorganic colours like metanil-yellow, orange-G, rhodamine B and others are harmful,” he added. Inorganic colours that are used for dyeing purposes were used in food items significantly in the past, but the current tests have revealed that such an improper trend is diminishing, Dahal said.

Jiwan Prava Lama, deputy director general of DFTQC said the decrease in the use of inedible colour primarily reflects the consumers’ consciousness.

“If the consumers are able to say no to unhygienic food, the producers won’t be able to cheat them,” she said.

She added that the awareness programmes conducted by the DFTQC for consumers are also to thank for generating such an effect.

“Furthermore, the continuous analysis of the market samples and penalising those violating the rules are also contributing in checking the adulteration,” she said.