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EU member states back lower Sunset Yellow usage levels in drinks

By Jane Byrne , 13-Sep-2011

EU member states have voted in favour of restricting use levels of controversial food colour, Sunset Yellow (E 110), in flavoured drinks.

The vote, which took place at the EU Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health meeting at the end of last week, followed a report by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) that found exposure to the additive might be exceeded but only by a particular group – children in the UK.

The Committee backed usage levels for Sunset Yellow per litre of flavoured drinks to 20mg, a lower level than the current maximum permitted level of 50mg for this category of use.

The European Commission said that new conditions of use for Sunset Yellow in a range of food and beverage categories could be adopted by the end of the year.

Sunset yellow (E 110) is a food colour currently authorised according to Directive 954/36/EC. EFSA re-evaluated the safety of sunset yellow in 2009.

Based on the available scientific data, the Parma-based risk assessor reduced the ADI to 1 mg/kg bw/day, and noted that exposure to the colour might be too high in some population groups.

The Commission then moved to reduce the current conditions of use and use levels for Sunset Yellow, in several food and drink categories, to ensure that the use of the food colours is safe in particular for children.

Scotland’s First Minister, Alex Salmond, welcomed the vote. Earlier this month, he wrote to the EU Commissioner for Health and Consumer Policy, John Dalli, warning that reducing the additive level to a 'suggested' 10mg could have a negative impact on Scotland's ‘iconic’ brand Irn Bru, which currently uses the colour at 20mg per litre, reports the BBC.

AB Barr, the makers of Irn Bu, also expressed delight with the outcome of last Friday’s meeting.

Meanwhile, Barbara Gallani, director of food safety & science at the UK trade body, the Food and Drink Federation, told FoodNavigator.com last week that: “Since EFSA published its revised safety assessment, which reconfirmed the safety of Sunset Yellow but with a reduced ADI, industry has been working closely with FSA and the European Commission on measures to reduce levels of use in those products which, for technical or other reasons cannot move to an alternative.

She reports though that most UK food manufacturers have already reformulated to remove Sunset Yellow and other artificial colours as a result of FSA’s call for voluntary removal following publication of the so-called Southampton study in 2007.