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Illegal Colourants Possibly Added to Food

Illegal Colourants Possibly Added to Food


(CMA Testing and Certification Laboratories)

Last week the Centre for Food Safety (CFS) announced that a kind of “lucky bun” was found to contain red 2G, a non-permitted colourant in food. The bakery operator selling the problematic bun expressed that it’s not his fault. He explained that the colourant used for stamping the bun was bought from a supplier in partnership for few years, and the container label indicated the colourant complied with Hong Kong regulations. He added that he was not a chemist and could not confirm the identity of the colourant.


Who’s to Blame for the Incident?

This incident is a good example illustrating two common causes of a food safety problem. First, food / raw material suppliers sell their problematic products to buyers (e.g. food manufacturer and retailer) in a deceptive way. Second, buyers do not have the required knowledge nor planned to test the safety and authenticity of the food / raw materials they bought.

In order to safeguard the safety of final food products, suppliers of course are a key player and should not commit food fraud. On the other hand, buyers should also periodically conduct supplier audits and send the food / raw materials they bought to an independent testing laboratory for analysis. Only those food / raw materials meeting food safety requirements can then be used and sold. This helps to assure the final food product is fit for consumption, and protect the brand & reputation of the buyers.

Other Examples of Prohibited Colourants Possibly Found in Food

China government has once published few lists of additives likely found in food which were either illegal or frequently overused. Last year National Health and Family Planning Commission of the People’s Republic of China reviewed the lists and proposed a new one. The new list states that following non-permitted colourants / dyes are likely added to Mainland foods.


Permitted Colouring Matters in Food Sold in Hong Kong

According to Cap 132H Colouring Matter in Food Regulations, permitted food colouring matters can be divided into two groups “Coal Tar Colours” & “Other Colours”. The law stipulates that no food intended for sale for human consumption shall contain any added colouring matter which is not a permitted colouring matter.