122 Azorubine (Carmoisine)

Posted 19 Oct 2023
122 Azorubine (Carmoisine)

What is Azorubine/Carmoisine (E122), and where is it used?

Azorubine, also known as Carmoisine (E122), is a synthetic red colourant commonly used in the food industry [1]. It belongs to the family of azo dyes and imparts a rich red hue to various food and beverage products to enhance their visual appeal. Azorubine/Carmoisine is used in a range of food applications, including confectionery, flavoured drinks, desserts and canned foods.

Purported Health Implications 

While Azorubine/Carmoisine is generally considered safe within established limits, there have been concerns about the potential health implications associated with its consumption.

  • Allergic Reactions: Some individuals may experience allergic reactions to Azorubine, such as skin rashes, gastrointestinal discomfort and respiratory allergies, especially in asthmatics [1-3]. If you experience an adverse reaction from Azorubine, it is advisable to avoid its consumption and seek a healthcare professional. 

  • Hyperactivity Concerns: Research has explored that exposure to certain food additives, including Azorubine, may promote hyperactivity in children, especially those diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) [4]. 

  • Potential Toxicity and Carcinogenicity: Some research found that Azorubine increased the risk of liver damage at high concentrations and may lead to cancer in mice models [5]. It's important to note that these findings have not been observed in humans and are based on animal studies.

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 Azorubine/Carmoisine [6,7]. Both committees established an ADI of 0-4 mg/kg body weight/day. Adhering to recommended ADI limits for ensuring safe consumption.

  • Read Product Labels: Always check the ingredient list on food and beverage labels for  Azorubine/Carmoisine (E122), especially if you have sensitivities or allergies to food additives. By checking labels, you can make informed choices about the foods you consume.

  • Moderation: Consume foods containing Azorubine in limited amounts. While it is considered safe within regulatory limits, excessive intake may lead to potential adverse effects [2]. Follow the recommended limits and consider overall dietary balance.

  • Balanced Diet: To minimise your exposure to Azorubine and other food additives, aim for a balanced diet rich in natural, whole foods. Fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains provide essential nutrients without the need for artificial colourants. This approach not only promotes health but also reduces the intake of food additives

  • Consult with Healthcare Professionals: If you have any concerns about Azorubine or experience adverse reactions following consumption, it’s advisable to consult with health professionals, such as allergists or dieticians. They can provide personalised advice based on your specific needs and sensitivities. 

  • Differential concerns regarding the potential implications of Azorubine have resulted in it being banned in some countries, such as Canada, USA and Japan, whereas it is permitted for use in the food industry of some European countries, New Zealand and Australia [8,9].


  1. Silva MM, Reboredo FH, Lidon FC. Food colour additives: A synoptical overview on their chemical properties, applications in food products, and health side effects. Foods. 2022 Jan 28;11(3):379.

  2. EFSA Panel on Food Additives and Nutrient Sources added to Food (ANS). Scientific Opinion on the re-evaluation of Azorubine/Carmoisine (E122) as a food additive. EFSA Journal 2009; 7(11):1332.

  3. 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. 

  4. McCann DC, Barrett A, Cooper A, Crumpler D, Dalen L, Grimshaw K, et al. Food additives and hyperactive behaviour in 3-year-old and 8/9-year-old children in the community: a randomised, double-blinded, placebo-controlled trial. The Lancet. 2007 Nov 1;370(9598):1560–7. 

  5. Reza MSA, Hasan MM, Kamruzzaman M, Hossain MI, Zubair MA, Bari L, Abedin MZ, Reza MA, Khalid-Bin-Ferdaus KM, Haque KMF, Islam K, Ahmed MU, Hossain MK. Study of a common azo food dye in mice model: Toxicity reports and its relation to carcinogenicity. Food Science and Nutrition. 2019 Jan 29;7(2):667–77.

  6. JECFA. Joint WHO/FAO Expert Committee on Food Additives. Evaluation of certain food additives and contaminants. WHO Technical Report Series. 1983; No. 696.

  7. SCF. Reports of the Scientific Committee for Food (14th series). 1984;1983, 59.

  8. Peksa V, Jahn M, Stolcova L, Schulz V, Proska J, Prochazka M, Weber K, Cialla-May D, Popp J. Quantitative SERS analysis of azorubine (E 122) in sweet drinks. Analytical chemistry. 2015 Mar 3;87(5):2840-4.

  9. Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ). Food additives - numerical list. 2019‌.


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.