A Canadian study finds that the dye E129, found in soft drinks, sweets and meat products, among others, damages the intestinal wall and microbiota, causing intestinal inflammation in laboratory animals. The effect could also occur in people.
Continued consumption of a coloring additive, E129, common in many ultra-processed products, could favor the development of inflammatory bowel diseases, such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, according to a study by researchers at McMaster University in Canada. The work was done with laboratory animals, but authors warn of the possible effect on people.
E129 is a red pigment that is also called “Allura red AC”, “aura red AC”, FD&C Red 40 and “food red 17”. It is a common ingredient in sweets, soft drinks, dairy products, some cereals, meat preparations and other products designed specially to attract children, such as jelly beans and candies. The additive is authorized in the European Union and is banned in Norway.
WHAT DAMAGE DOES E129 CAUSE?
Continued consumption of this additive could promote inflammation and damage to the gut. According to the researchers, this synthetic pigment directly disrupts intestinal barrier function and increases the production of serotonin, a hormone/neurotransmitter found in the gut, which subsequently alters the composition of the gut microbiota and increases susceptibility to colitis. This finding has an important implication in the prevention and management of intestinal inflammation, explains Wailful Khan, co-senior author of the study and professor in the Department of Pathology and Molecular Medicine at McMaster University.
The study warns in the study published by Nature Communications that the use of synthetic food dyes such as E129 has increased significantly in recent decades. “What we have found is surprising and alarming, as this common synthetic food dye is a potential dietary trigger for inflammatory bowel diseases. This research is a significant advance in alerting the public to the potential harms of the food dyes we consume on a daily basis,” Khan said.
Inflammatory bowel diseases are chronic and serious, affecting millions of people worldwide. Among the reasons for the increase in incidence have been the imbalances of the intestinal microbiota and environmental factors, such as the typical Western diet, rich in processed fats, red and processed meats and sugar, but deficient in fiber. Now, additives such as E129 become part of the possible causative factors.
THE ADDITIVE IS ALSO LINKED TO ALLERGIES AND HYPERACTIVITY
Previous scientific studies have linked E129 to certain allergies, immune disorders, and behavioral problems in children, such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
It is one of the additives associated with childhood hyperactivity by the “Southampton 6” study, along with tartrazine (E102), Ponceau 4R (E124), quinoline yellow (E104), sunset yellow (E110), carnosine (E122) and sodium benzoate (E211, a preservative). In 2007, the European Food Safety Authority required a warning to be placed on the labelling and temporarily reduced the acceptable daily intake of these additives. However, in 2009, EFSA reassessed the available data and removed the obligation to provide the warning.
E129 IS WIDELY USED BY INDUSTRY
In the world every year 2.3 million kilograms of Allura AC net are produced. In addition to food, it is used in medicines, cosmetics and feed for dogs and cats. Everything to make the products more attractive to the eye. It is also used in tattoo inks. Its use has increased because it has replaced other additives with proven harmful effects such as E127 (erythrosine) and E128 (red 2).
LEGAL STATUS OF E129
E129 is authorized as a food additive by the European Union, but is banned in some of the member countries and other countries of the European space: Noriega, Germany, Denmark, Switzerland, Sweden, France, Austria and Belgium.
In 2013, EFSA reassessed the scientific literature and found no evidence to change the legal situation, but recommended that further testing be carried out to address uncertainties related to the possible genotoxicity of Allura Red AC (no mention of inflammatory effects discovered now). Genotoxicity is the ability of a substance to damage DNA, the genetic material of cells.
In 2015, EFSA concluded that Allura Red AC is not genotoxic to dogs and cats. The new test data demonstrate that Allura Red AC does not damage the DNA of individual cells or show other evidence of genotoxicity.