After 37 years, cancer-causing agent still in food

rhodamineThe Ministry of Health is making a mockery of the Food Regulations as the use of Rhodamine B in food is still rampant in spite of it being banned.
CAP first detected the presence of Rhodamine B in belacan in 1973 and since then tests conducted in 1983, 1993, 1995, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2007 and 2008 have still found this dye to be present in belacan and other foods.
On each occasion when we found this dye in food, a letter was sent to the Ministry of Health requesting them to investigate. However we regret that the situation has not changed. This dye is still being used in food in spite of it being banned more than half a century ago. Rhodamine B, a cancer-causing agent, produces a pinkish hue. It is not supposed to be used as a colouring agent for food. It is meant only for dyeing plastic goods and textiles.

Under the Food Regulations 1985, Rhodamine B is not allowed for use in food. Offenders, if convicted, may face a fine not exceeding RM5,000 or imprisonment for a term not exceeding 2 years, or both.

Rhodamine B was also not allowed in food under the Food and Drug Ordinance of 1952. This means that this dye was banned for use in food for more than 50 years.

In our latest test conducted in April 2010, we found Rhodamine B to be present in 2 samples of belacan and some coloured snacks bought at a famous wet market in Kuala Lumpur.

We are shocked that Rhodamine B is still present in food although it has been banned more than 50 years ago.

From the results of our latest test, it is obvious that the law is not stringent enough to deter offenders from using this dye in food.

Cancer is the Number One killer in Malaysia and it is affecting an increasing number of Malaysians. The consumption of cancer-causing agents in food is a major cause of cancer. In view of our latest findings, CAP calls on the Ministry of Health to take the following actions:

  •  Strictly enforce the Food Regulations 1985.
  •  Investigate and prosecute any person found using dyes in food items which the law does not allow to be coloured.
  •  Stop the sale of industrial-grade dyes (banned for food) in small quantities to prevent misuse.
  •  Discourage food operators and manufacturers from using chemical dyes since they are dangerous and totally unnecessary.
  •  Conduct media campaigns to discourage consumers from purchasing food items that contain dyes and educate them on how to read food labels properly.
  •  Conduct regular tests frequently on all food items sold to ensure that they are free from banned dyes and toxic chemicals.

The Ministry of Health should seize all such food products in the market. Meanwhile consumers are advised to avoid foods which look unnaturally bright.