The issue of food adulteration by using artificial coloration has come to the forefront from Bangalore. The yellow dye Sunset Yellow is being used rampantly to color tur dal beyond permitted levels, while Malachite Green is being used for coloring frozen peas. These dyes are generally used in leather, textile and paper industries. While Malachite Green is strictly banned in the food industry, Sunset Yellow FCF can be used up to a maximum permissible level of 100 ppm, singly or in combination as per the Food Safety and Standards (Food Product Standards and Food Additives) Regulation, 2011. In spite of this, a number of unscrupulous businessmen are using these dyes to such an extent that it is becoming a serious health hazard for consumers. These dyes, upon long-term exposure can cause cancer of the liver and kidney, while acute exposure generally causes gastroenteritis with vomiting and diarrhea.
Arrests have been made and warnings have been issued to the defaulters by the State food enforcement authorities. There is also a possibility that the prison-terms could be increased in the future in order to set an example to the erring business establishments. So far, over Rs. 7 lakhs have been collected as fine against food adulteration, since the Food Safety and Standards Act came into force. It has been observed by the authorities that many of the defaulters are oblivious of the harmful effects of these coloring agents.
Food adulteration using various types of harmful coloring agents is a serious problem in all parts of India, which increases particularly during festive times. While harmful coloring agents are totally banned, even for permitted food coloring agents, the FSSAI has set guidelines for the levels of heavy metals as per the Food Safety and Standards (Contaminants, Toxins and Residues) Regulation, 2011. For example, no coloring agent should contain more than 10 ppm of lead, 30 ppm of copper, 3 ppm of arsenic (synthetic color) & 5 ppm of arsenic (non-synthetic color), on the dry coloring matter. Moreover, the import of the prohibited food coloring agent Allura Red AC has been banned by Delhi High Court since last year.