How Is Food Coloring Regulated in the UK? Research Paper Example
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It is important for regulatory agencies to ensure that the ingredients contained within our food are healthy for human consumption. In order to gain an understanding of these ingredients, the government commissions scientists to partake in investigations of the health of these foods, studying their short-term and long-term health impacts (Meadows). Furthermore, population health studies are conducted to validate these findings. Throughout history, humans have been using chemical products that have later been deemed as dangerous. The concern over chemical ingredients in food and medicine began with an understanding that many early products that promised health ended up making people sick or die. This contributed to the need for labelling and testing products, so that consumers would be aware of what they are ingesting in additional to potential side effects for its use.
How is the risk defined and assessed?
In recent years, many individuals have become concerned about the health of the processed food products that they are consuming, as many ingredients commonly used in these products have been shown to cause cancer and other disabilities. Of equal concern was that food colouring, particularly red dye, was causing harmful allergic reactions in many of the individuals that consumed foods with artificial colouring and flavouring (Blumenthal). These studies and observations revealed that it is essential to gain a greater understanding of the relationship between chemicals used in food and how they are consumed in order to determine which products should be permanently removed from shelves across the country.
People around the world have demonstrated concern in the use of food colouring and additives and products lately, and physicians have some opinions as to whether this practice should be stopped. Studies have shown that several dyes, including Yellow 5, Yellow 6, and Red 40 are characterized by chemicals called benzidine and 4-aminobiphenyl that have the potential to cause cancer in the individuals that regularly consume it (International Food Information Council Foundation). Furthermore, studies have shown that consumption of certain dyes, especially Red 40, contributes to allergy problems and has the potential to cause aggression and memory problems in young children (Stokes). Therefore, there are many stakeholders who should be concerned about this problem including, parents, young children, medical professionals, and even manufacturing companies that use these dyes regularly in their products.
A majority of these stakeholders define the problem similarly to what the average person would. Even though the average consumer would not have an advanced understanding of the chemicals that are put into food products, a majority of them understand that modern manufacturing practices are causing food to become unhealthy and would rather see these detrimental practices be put to an end. Therefore, even though these individuals do not fully understand the risk, many do assume that the food they eat can be problematic if they are not regulated properly. Some of these individuals are aware of the detrimental effects of Red 40 due to the commonality of this particular allergy among youth. Therefore, these individuals define the risk of this problem in the same manner that most parents, children, and doctors would, which generates a need for people to be educated about this problem because it impacts everyone.
On the other hand, product manufacturers that profit from the use of food colouring in their products would disagree with this claim. These individuals believe that there is not sufficient evidence to determine whether there are long-term health impacts that can be seen as a result of food colouring consumption. It is in their best interest to determine that this is the case because food colouring helps products looks more aesthetically pleasing, which allows a greater amount of product to be sold overall (Delwiche 137). However, these individuals claim that this risk is low because admitting to or demonstrating a high risk of consumption would hurt business. Therefore, these individuals counter scientific and public claims made against the dangers of food dyes in order to make it appear that the relationship between dye consumption and human health is currently unknown. This is done by not taking all information on the topic into account when summaries of the current risk are being designed.
Despite these contradicting views of the risk related to food dye consumption, this is a major health issue that needs to be taken more seriously due to the high levels of risk involved. Specific dyes have been linked to different health defects. For example, blue # 1 has been linked to chromosomal damage and has been banned in France (Hennessy). Blue # 2 causes brain tumors and has been banned in Norway. Citrus red # 2 and green # 3 are known for causing bladder tumors and are banned in several locations. Red # 40 is considered to be one of the most dangerous dyes and causes chromosomal damage, lymphomas, and hyperactivity. Red # 3 causes neurochemical and behavioural effects, thyroid tumors, and chromosomal damage. Yellow # 5 causes chromosomal damage, asthma, aggression, violent behaviour, insomnia, lymphomas, hyperactivity, thyroid tumors, allergies, and neurochemical and behavioural effects (Millichap et al. 330). Last, yellow # 6 causes chromosomal damage, eczema, hives, asthma, hyperactivity, allergies, and thyroid tumors (Special Education Degrees). Due to the diverse range of effects seen as a result of consumption of different types of dyes, it is challenging for scientists to conduct definitive studies that reveal the number of deaths due to consumption of each dye and the dyes as a whole. However, it is clear that these dyes have a negative impact on human health, even when they do not cause deadly disease. Therefore, it is evident that there is a high health risk associated with the consumption of these dyes that are contained in so many available food products.
There are nearly no health experts that disagree about the risks imposed by artificial food colouring. Therefore, it is important to take these health warnings into greater consideration. Despite the overwhelming evidence for these health problems, food manufacturers attempt to prevent this knowledge from reaching the public because they wish to continue to sell their products without modifying them. Thus, even though there is a near scientific consensus regarding the harmful impacts of these dyes, there is not enough public knowledge to support significant policy change regarding their ban in many locations. It is therefore the responsibility of the government to step in and implement regulations that would help protect the health rights of consumers. In the United Kingdom and many other European nations, governments have taken steps to exert stringent requirements regarding the use of food dyes and how the use of these products should be labelled when they are permitted. This has led to an increased understanding of the effects of food dye among individuals living in the United Kingdom, which has created for the ability for these individuals to live a healthier lifestyle. While it is likely that the risk associated with food dye has existed since the dye has first been used, scientists have only been able to uncover the link between the product and associated health effects in the past several decades (Walford 25). It is likely that this food colouring problem is becoming worse over time because in the modern era, people are more likely to use these products to make food look appealing. Furthermore, they are frequently used to make candy look more desirable, and modern humans consume more of these junk food products than they have in previous years. Therefore, this risk has increased as a consequence of our changing lifestyle.
Overall, while the health impacts of food colouring have only been considered a cause for concern recently in the United Kingdom, many studies have indicated that food colouring has no nutritional value and may be detrimental to human health. As a consequence, food legislation has been enacted in accordance with the findings of these studies in order to help protect the rights of consumers (Hassel 10). In order to understand what the health problems associated with the use of food colouring are, it is first important to gain an understanding of how they are traditionally used in food products in the country and around the world.
Who regulates the risk?
Typically, food colouring is used in processed food items to help enhance the physical appearance of the food, making it appear tastier. Many food manufacturers use this technique in order to compensate for the fact that the food has been bleached through use of many chemicals. When this is not the case, it is generally used to make the product look healthier or create an aesthetic effect. While food colouring is often a seemingly innocent way to make pastries look more delectable, manufacturing plants use food colouring to cover natural colour variations in food and to replace the colour that has been lost as a consequence of food storage or processing. Therefore, it is clear that while in many cases, food colouring can be used to enhance food, it can also be used to hide the health of the products that are being sold, which is unfair to consumers (Food Standards Agency Northern Ireland). The food colouring can be either natural or artificial, and it is often the artificial products that create a cause for concern.
While local governments have their own unique legislation regarding the use of food colouring throughout the United Kingdom, it is important to consider how these regulations culminate to impact the business/consumer relationship in the region. In Northern Ireland, regulation (EC) No. 1333/2008, which was implemented by the Food Additives, Flavourings, Enzymes and Extraction Solvents Regulations (NI) 2013) were created to determine which food colour additives could be legally used in the United Kingdom. Under this regulation, there are several allowed colours, which are permitted based on health evidence that has been generated for each specific dye. Meanwhile, the specific regulations that direct the use of food colouring in England, Scotland, and Wales include the Sweeteners in Food Regulations of 1995, which has been amended periodically in the following years, the Colours in Food Regulations of 1995, and the Miscellaneous Food Additives Regulations of 1995. These laws combined help define which food additives can be should be permitted to be sold to consumers, specific purity criteria, and which levels of additives could be used (Food Standards Agency).
Ultimately, the laws that dictate the regulation of food dyes typically originate at low level courts and then make their way to the Parliament for discussion after the issues has gotten enough attention (Alt). The enhanced regulation of food coloring was a particularly difficult issue to advocate for because the individuals that believed in this requirement were forced to oppose wealthy manufacturing agencies. However, this issue received enough public attention that it would have been challenging for representatives to have voted against this decision. This demonstrates that the involvement of people in the legislative process is important because it helps ensure that laws are made in a manner that provides maximal benefit to the people.
How is the risk regulated?
These regulations have been put in place to ensure that consumers are aware of the health implications of the products they buy, in addition to helping them understand whether products they purchase from overseas vendors are following the proper code. As a consequence, the law requires extensive labelling to be used on products so that consumers can gain a true understanding of the items they are purchasing. Regulations and requirements dictate that food products be labelled with a clearly stated name, a list of ingredients, nutritional information, and medical claims. Food additives and allergens, among other standards, must be listed as well.
It is expected that all ingredients used to make a particular food item will be listed on the product in descending order of weight, unless the ingredient is present at less than 2% by weight in the product, in which case it can listed at the end of the ingredients list in any order (CFS). Furthermore, chemical preservatives must be listed as such in the list so that consumers can gain an enhanced understanding of the purpose of the chemicals; therefore each listing will contain the identity of the chemical in addition to the word “preservative” and its European registration number. If the ingredients listed on the bottle are made of sub-ingredients, these must be listed as well. Last, if these ingredients are likely to contain allergens, this must be noted on the label and the EU allergen name must be cited on the list. In this manner, the United Kingdom’s regulatory agencies ensure that food manufacturers are unable to hide the fact that certain artificial colouring is used in a product. To ensure that this will be the case, the specific dye colour will be listed and if the product is a known allergen, this information will be available as well. This will be the case for all products that are legally sold in the United Kingdom, even if the product was produced overseas. In addition, manufacturers must make their consumers aware of products that could potentially be contaminated with allergens from other products produced in the same facility.
These laws are regulated in a manner that is consistent with current medical knowledge. Now that the government takes great care to ensure that consumers are aware of the contents of their food products, they are looking to take additional action to ensure that this will be the case. Currently, there are several allowed food dyes that have not obtained illegal status because there is not a significant enough understanding between their consumption and the likelihood of suffering from any of the common side effects related to food dyes. However, physicians and researchers are currently studying these dyes to determine whether there is any potential for this to become the case. Therefore, it is likely that the government’s policy will adjust based on a new understanding of these dyes and how they are related to human health.
There are currently no alternatives to regulation and the laws regarding the use of artificial colouring are very strict. Most of these laws are enforced at the national level, as these regulations control which products enter the country to be sold since most of the products that use these dyes are produced overseas. However, local regulatory agencies are responsible for overseeing the production that occurs within the country, therefore indicating that regulation occurs at both the national and local levels. Overall, positive consequences have been seen as a result of this policy implementation. Children who have removed the consumption of these dyes from their diet altogether have found that they are having an easier time concentrating and their cognitive abilities have improved. Furthermore, it is expected that the incidence of cancer and related diseases will decrease over time as these dyes have been phased out of food for a longer period of time.
What are the politics of risk regulation?
It is likely that food manufacturers will continue to advocate for the return or continued use of food dyes in their products because the use of food dye is a tactic that will make them more money (Cannon 161). Although these companies are not currently winning this battle in the United Kingdom, it is evident that this technique is working in other parts of the world. It is therefore necessary for these companies and the governments to agree that these same products can still be made, but it a manner that does not cause detriment to human health. In the United Kingdom, many natural colours are being used to replace these artificial dyes, and these stem from edible sources such as spinach, berries, and pumpkin. While removing the use of food colouring from the making of products altogether would seem to be a strange activity, it is possible to modify practices in a manner that protect both business and the health of consumers.
Food colouring is regulated in this current manner because it is difficult to determine patterns of human consumption that would occur if this product wasn’t regulated. Many individuals may still choose to eat these products knowing about the health risks due to factors such as price. It is therefore the responsibility of the government to step in and prevent these individuals from being taken advantage of. It is likely that the approval or disapproval of food dyes will be controlled in this manner in the future because it is the most effective way to ensure that an objective understanding of health data is being used to direct policy.
In conclusion, many countries that have not adopted this strictness with regards to the use of food colouring have been experiencing the negative effects of this. In particular, individuals living in the United States are suffering from enhanced cases of ADHD related to the consumption of these products. It is therefore important for other governments to look at the steps taken by the United Kingdom as an example of measures that should be taken in order to protect the health of the people. Overall, the importance of regulating food colouring in products produced around the world should be considered a worldwide effort. Individuals in third world countries and many first world nations without these regulation are consuming products that have been scientifically determined to cause a variety of illnesses. It is therefore necessary for the governments who have banned the use of these products to work together in a manner that promotes safe food across the board. Safety standards will be easier to enforce for the United Kingdom and surrounding nations if all nations work together as allies in order to promote human health by creating healthy food choices. The United Kingdom could pioneer this effort by providing these countries with evidence of what has worked with their legal implementations of these restrictions in addition to how governments could counter the influence of companies that manufacture these products in order to ensure that this will be the case. Ultimately, it is expected that this collaboration will help the world to achieve an enhanced standing with regards to health and safety.
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