What is Erythrosine (127), and where is it used?
Erythrosine, also known as Red No. 3 or E127 is a synthetic red dye that is available in a powdered or granular form to impart a bright cherry-red hue to certain foods and beverages . It is derived from coal tar or petroleum sources and belongs to the class of xanthene dyes. Common applications include candied cherries, syrup, cake-decorating gels, confectionery, alcoholic beverages and even some oral medications . Its vibrant colour makes it a popular choice for manufacturers to enhance the aesthetic value of their products.
Purported Health Implications
While Erythrosine is generally considered safe within established regulatory limits, there have been concerns about the potential health implications associated with its consumption.
Allergic Reactions: Be aware of the potential for allergic reactions to food dyes. If you experience symptoms such as hives, itching, skin rashes, gastrointestinal discomfort or shortness of breath after consuming products containing Erythrosine, seek medical advice and consider avoiding such products in the future [3,4].
Hyperactivity Concerns: Some studies have raised concerns that synthetic food dyes including Erythrosine, induce neurobehavioural problems in children, such as hyperactivity . Although, evidence remains inconclusive, and more research is permitted to establish a direct link.
Potential Carcinogenicity: Animal research has found a link between Erythrosine and increased risk of cancer in mice models, specifically in the thyroid gland [3,6]. There is no evidence of these findings in a short-term human study, although it does not address long-term exposure to Erythrosine .
Recommendations for Safe Consumption
Acceptable Daily Intake (ADI): The Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA) and the EU Scientific Committee for Food (SCF) have evaluated the safety of Erythrosine [8,9]. Both committees established an ADI of 0.1 mg/kg of body weight/day. This guideline helps ensure the safe consumption of Erythrosine within specified limits.
Read Product Labels: Be aware and check food and beverage labels to identify products containing Erythrosine (E127). This allows you to make informed choices and exercise caution when consuming products containing Erythrosine, particularly important if you have known sensitivities or allergies to xanthene dyes.
Moderation: Consume foods containing Erythrosine in moderation and within the recommended limits. However, it is best to avoid artificially coloured foods as much as possible.
Balanced Diet: Focus on consuming a well-balanced diet with a diverse range of whole, unprocessed foods that are naturally colourful and rich in nutrients such as fruits and vegetables. This approach reduces reliance on synthetic food colourings and minimises the potential risks associated with additives.
Consult with Healthcare Professionals: If you have concerns or known allergies related to food dyes, it's advisable to consult with a healthcare professional, such as an allergist or dietician. They can provide personalised guidance and recommend appropriate steps to avoid potential allergic reactions.
Differential concerns regarding the potential implications of Erythrosine have led to the exclusively authorised use in cocktail and candied cherries in the UK by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) . Whilst, approved for use in food and ingested drugs in the US without any restrictions by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) . However, there is an ongoing petition about the need to revoke this approval as it is prohibited in cosmetics and externally applied drugs by the FDA .
Commission Regulation (EU) No. 231/2012 of 22 March 2012. Laying Down Specifications for Food Additives Listed in Annexes II and III to Regulation (EC) No. 1333/2008 of the European Parliament and of the Council. J. Eur. Union 2012, L83, 1–294.
Commission Regulation (EU) No. 1129/2011. Amending Annex II to Regulation (EC) No. 1333/2008 of the European Parliament and of the Council by Establishing a Union List of Food Additives. J. Eur. Union 2011, L295, 1–177.
Center for Science in the Public Interest. "Food Dyes: A Rainbow of Risks." 2010.
Sadowska B, Marika Gawinowska, Sztormowska M, Chełmińska M. Hypersensitivity of azo dyes in urticaria patients based on a single-blind, placebo-controlled oral challenge. Postepy Dermatologii I Alergologii. 2022 Jan 1;39(5):877–9.
Arnold LE, Lofthouse N, Hurt E. Artificial food colors and attention-deficit/hyperactivity symptoms: conclusions to dye for. Neurotherapeutics. 2012;9(3):599-609.
EFSA Panel on Food Additives and Nutrient Sources added to Food (ANS). Scientific Opinion on the re-evaluation of Erythrosine (E 127) as a food additive. EFSA Journal. 2011;9(1):1854.
Gardner DF, Utiger RD, Schwartz SL, Witorsch P, Meyers B, Braverman LE and Witorsch RJ. Effects of oral Erythrosine on thyroid function in normal men. Toxicology and Applied Pharmacology. 1987;91, 299-304.
JECFA (Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives). Toxicological evaluation of certain food additives and contaminants. 37th Report. WHO Food Additives Series. 1990; No. 28.
SCF, 1989. Reports of the Scientific Committee for Food (21st series). 1987, 10 Dec.
U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Summary of Color Additives for Use in the United States in Foods, Drugs, Cosmetics, and Medical Devices.
We do our best to source robust information from a number of credible sources. There is, however, a large amount of information on various aspects of nutritional elements along with claims in terms of their contribution to helping in body health which may contradict the above.