Is E129 Banned in the UK?

Red sweets

E129 is an artificial colour best known as allura red. It is used as a food dye and is popular worldwide, especially for its use in sweets and soft drinks.

As with many artificial food additives, you might be wondering if E129 is banned in the UK.

Here we look closely at the legalities of this food additive and any health risks you should be aware of.

Is allura red banned in the United Kingdom? Is E129 safe for consumption? What are the side effects? And are there other artificial colours to be aware of? Let’s find out!


Is E129 Banned in the UK?

According to the Food Standards Agency, E129 is not banned in the United Kingdom and can be used in food products.

UK manufacturers were made to remove E129 from their products in 2009 following research that found links to hyperactivity in children.

However, EU products containing E129 can be legally sold in the UK, assuming they’re appropriately labelled. The wording is precise; manufacturers must write, “May have an adverse effect on activity and attention in children” on all food products containing allura red if they are sold in the UK market. This is considered an appropriate warning for the side effects of E129.

So, E129 isn’t banned, but is only found in imported products, and there must be a warning on the packaging.


What Are the Side Effects of E129?

The main side effect of consuming E129 is hyperactivity in children. This side effect was established in a large 2008 study performed by the European Food Standards Agency known as the Southampton Study that assessed the impact of food colourings on child behaviour.

It was this research that sparked the government to prohibit UK manufacturers from using E129 in foods.

The study revealed that many other artificial colourings also cause hyperactivity, including E102 (taurine), E104 (quinoline yellow), E110 (sunset yellow), E122 (carmoisine), and E124 (ponceau).

These five additives, along with E129, are known as the “Southampton Six”. All six were part of the 2009 phase-out in the UK but are still legal additives in the EU.


Is E129 Carcinogenic?

A carcinogenic substance is any substance or agent capable of causing cancer in people. Some carcinogens exist in our natural environment, but some artificial additives have also been known to possibly cause cancer. Examples include E320, E249, and E954. But is E129 a carcinogen?

To be approved for use in food, all additives must pass as ‘safe’ according to in-depth research studies. There currently aren’t any studies suggesting a link between E129 and cancer, so according to current research we can assume it isn’t carcinogenic.


Who Should Avoid E129?

The main group of people to avoid foods containing E129 are children. As this additive is known to cause attention and hyperactivity issues in kids, parents should limit their child’s consumption. This

is especially true for children with ADHD, ADD, and known hyperactivity disorders. Consuming E129 can exacerbate these symptoms.

Adults with asthma should also avoid E129, as some research found that consuming high concentrations can trigger the condition.

Likewise, allergies to E129 have been observed when large amounts of this additive have been consumed. If you know you suffer from food allergies, avoid products containing allura red or only consume them in moderation.

Thankfully, due to UK labelling requirements, eliminating or reducing these foods from the diet is straightforward.

If you do find any unlabelled products containing E129 or any of the other Southampton Six (E102, E104, E110, E122 and E124), be sure to notify the UK Food Standards Agency.

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