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Study calls for curbs on massive use of colours in food items

Our Bureau

Hyderabad , Aug. 30

READY-to-eat foods in Hyderabad have become more colourful in recent years, thanks to the liberal use of a variety of food colours, most of them belonging to the permitted list.

The highest concentrations of colours were found in sweetmeats at 18,767 ppm (parts per million), non-alcoholic beverages (9,450 ppm) and hard boiled sugar confectioneries (3,811 ppm), according to a study done by the National Institute of Nutrition (NIN), here.

The institute, however, found a healthy reduction in the use of non-permitted colours, which was limited to less than 10 per cent of the foods.

While the quantum of levels of permitted colour use in ready-to-eat foods is in the range of 200-730 ppm, as per the Prevention of Food Adulteration Act, the NIN study found the range of use between 101 ppm and 18,767 ppm in Hyderabad city.

While the excess use of non-permitted colours causes known health problems, indiscriminate use of even permitted colours has become cause for worry. This issue needs to be addressed, the study said.

The NIN study covered a total of 145 outlets, including supermarkets (23), sweetmeat stalls (45), wholesale markets (15), retail outlets selling only confectioneries and other coloured food items such as deep fried snack, fun foods for children such as sugar toys, coloured synthetic powders (10), bakeries (21), fast food centres (6), small vendors (25).

The sample size was 545 coloured food items, which were purchased from these outlets. The colours from these samples were extracted and analysed. Most of the foods sold in the market were coloured and it was difficult to find a ready-to-eat food item without colour addition.

Some of the non-vegetarian preparations such as chicken 65, chicken Manchurian and chicken gravy were also coloured. Out of the 545 coloured food samples analysed, 32 per cent was sweetmeats, 40 per cent hard-boiled sugar confectioneries, 21 per cent miscellaneous and 7 per cent non-alcoholic beverages.

The NIN analysis showed that 90 per cent of these food items contained permitted colours, while 8 per cent used non-permitted colours and 2 per cent had a combination of both.

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