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British Food Journal Volume 46 Issue 7 1944

British Food Journal

ISSN: 0007-070X

Article publication date: 1 July 1944



One can easily see that there is abundant opportunity for the introduction of harmful impurities unless every care is taken to avoid contamination due to impure ingredients or by metals, if used, in the plant. The Departmental Committee already referred to considered that the maximum permissible quantity of arsenic in any colouring substance used for food purposes should be 1/100th of a grain a pound, and that the total amount of lead, copper, tin and zinc should not exceed 20 parts per million. Thus a dyestuff should be of a high degree of purity in spite of the fact that it is only added in very small proportions to food. In America the Food and Drug Authorities issue certificates for each batch of dyestuff after it has passed thorough physiological and chemical tests. There is no doubt that if such tests were carried out in this country by officially appointed chemists and physiologists the health of the community would be more securely safeguarded from the possible ill effects of ingested dyestuffs. Under the present system it is apparently no one's business to detect the presence of harmful colours in food other than those actually prohibited, for obviously such work does not come within the scope of the Public Analyst. My last point is concerning the labelling of food containing added colouring matter. It has already been seen that colours are very frequently added to conceal inferior quality, or to simulate a valuable ingredient which is not actually present in the food. Therefore, in my opinion, the presence of added colouring matter should definitely be declared to the purchaser either by a label attached to the article or by a notice displayed in the shop. Such a declaration would help to counteract unfair competition. It is true that the Departmental Committee reported that “If a list of permitted colours is prepared in the way we have suggested, we do not think that, as far as health considerations are concerned, a declaration of their use need be required.” It is obvious that the Committee made that recommendation from health reasons alone and did not take into account cases where colour was added to conceal inferior quality. The food laws of this country lag far behind those of some others, and the tightening up of legislation in this respect is overdue. It is interesting to note that the following countries make the declaration of added colours to some or all types of food compulsory: The United States of America, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, Germany, Italy and France. Argentina takes a bold stand and prohibits absolutely the use of artificial colours in food, only harmless natural colours in certain instances are allowed. In America a food is not covered by a declaration of the addition of colouring if it is added to make the food appear of better quality or of greater value than it is. Also in America the labels of compound food such as confectionery must have a list of the quantities of the separate ingredients, exemption being allowed where there is of necessity insufficient space on the label to accommodate all the statements and information required. Unpacked confectionery, owing to the difficulty of labelling satisfactorily, is exempt. It has been remarked that a certain proposed label for use in America looked like a newspaper, and even the Readers' Digest could not condense it! Still, I feel sure that the intelligent purchaser would far rather have too much information, if that is possible, regarding the quality of the food he eats rather than too little, and those who, owing to lack of knowledge, are less discriminating in their choice of food, need to be protected. In conclusion, then, in my view, there is no objection to the artificial colouring of food provided that the colouring agent employed has no adverse effect upon the human organism, that it is not added to imply superior quality or to otherwise deceive, and that its presence, where practicable, is declared to the purchaser.


(1944), "British Food Journal Volume 46 Issue 7 1944", British Food Journal, Vol. 46 No. 7, pp. 61-70.




Copyright © 1944, MCB UP Limited

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