Controls on chemicals in food

Sudan dyes and industrial dyes not permitted in food


Certain industrial dyes - such as Para Red, Sudan dyes (Sudan I, Sudan II, Sudan III and Sudan IV, otherwise known as scarlet red), Rhodamine B and Orange II - are not permitted for use in food.

Some of these are carcinogenic whilst others are potentially genotoxic and/or carcinogenic to human health if consumed. However, Sudan dyes are used legally in shoe and floor polish, solvents, oils, waxes and petrol.

Industrial dyes have been used illegally in spices, sauces, chutneys, vinegars and palm oil, among many other products and, as any amount is undesirable in food, these have been removed from the market.

Food alerts about illegal dyes

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) publishes information on food alerts, where food has been recalled due to the presence of illegal dyes.

Other illegal dyes are:

  • butter yellow
  • metanil yellow
  • orange G
  • toluidine red

Food imports and Sudan dyes

Since 2003, all imports of dried, crushed and ground spices, curry powders, curcumin and palm oil have had to be accompanied by test certificates showing that they do not contain Sudan dyes. Any consignment without relevant documentation is detained for sampling and analysis.

Random sampling must also be carried out by port and district councils. Any consignment found to contain industrial dye is destroyed.

  • Food Standards Agency Northern Ireland
    028 9041 7700