The use of harmful colours in foodstuff is reported to have significantly declined over the years. This means that various food items available in the market are now relatively safer for consumption than before. As per a recent study conducted by the Department of Food Technology and Quality Control (DFTQC), out of 511 samples of food items tested to determine whether the colours used in them were edible and if they met the prescribed safe standard level (which is 200mg/kg), only one item was found to contain inedible colour. That inedible colour - Rhodamine B - was found in a sample of puri, sold in the sweet shops in the Valley. The decrease looks incredible especially in the light of past DFTQC findings. For instance, out of 222 samples tested by the DFTQC in the Valley in 2003-04, 19 food items were found to have been laced with harmful colours then.
Food items such as fruit juice, tomato ketchup, potato chips, and locally made sweets have long been considered unsafe for public consumption. Inorganic colours, used for dyeing clothes, have also been used in such food items in the past. The current tests, however, indicate that the present improvement has been caused by the rising level of public awareness. This is an encouraging sign, as when the consumers are aware of the dangers to their health from unhygienic food items, the manufacturers cannot easily cheat the people. Furthermore, timely ana-lysis of the products, penalising the guilty and conducting regular awareness campaigns will help ensure that the quality of food items can be maintained.