The European Food Safety Authority’s scientific Panel on additives, the ANS Panel, has assessed the safety of the red food colour Amaranth (E123), completing the re-evaluation of all azo dyes authorised for use in the European Union . EFSA’s scientific advice will help to inform decisions of EU risk managers in relation to food additives.
Amaranth is a red azo dye colour which can be used to colour foods such as aperitif drinks and fish roe. After reviewing all available toxicological data, the Panel concluded that the colour is not genotoxic (does not damage the genetic material of cells) nor carcinogenic. The Panel set an Acceptable Daily Intake (ADI) for the substance of 0.15 mg per kg body weight per day, lowering the ADIs previously established in 1984 respectively by the Scientific Committee on Food (0-0.8 mg/kg bw/day) and the Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives (0-0.5 mg/kg bw/day).
The Panel notes that while the mean exposure of adults is far below the ADI, adults consuming regularly extremely high amounts of Americano (cocktail of vermouth and red aperitif mixer) and aperitif wine drinks containing the colour at the maximum permitted level might exceed the ADI 6 times . Children’s exposure was estimated to be around 30 times lower than the ADI. The Panel calculated exposure to Amaranth on the basis of the maximum levels of use permitted or reported by industry .
In line with the European Commission’s request, EFSA started with the assessment of colours as part of its ongoing re-evaluation of the safety of all food additives authorised for use in the EU. In particular, the European Commission asked EFSA to prioritise the assessment of azo dyes colours following publication of a study (McCann et al in 2007 ), suggesting a possible link between certain mixtures of colours(including five azo dyes) and the preservative sodium benzoate and hyperactivity in children.
List of opinions on colours adopted so far (10 of which are azo dyes) available at Topics A-Z: Food Colours