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Cancer fears prompt meat dye ban

Red dye used in sausages and burgers is being banned because it could cause cancer, the European Commission said. The move came in a unanimous vote of an EU committee of national food health experts, and comes into force within days.

A Commission spokesman said the decision affects the colouring agent Red 2G, which would no longer be allowed to be used in the EU or imported in foodstuffs because of a potential cancer risk highlighted earlier this month by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA).

“The EFSA says it could pose a health risk and we are taking immediate measures to block the use of this additive, which is used in breakfast sausages and burgers, at rather low levels” said the spokesman. “We are mostly talking about the UK and Ireland, and Red 2G is mainly used by small producers and small butchers.”

The EFSA said Red 2G converts in the body to a substance called aniline, which should be considered as a carcinogen following tests of its effects on rats and mice.

Red 2G is already only allowed in limited amounts in food – in sausages with a minimum cereal content of 6% and in burger meat with a minimum vegetable and/or cereal content of 4%.

Its use in the UK is “likely to be minimal”, according to the Food and Drink Federation.