The artificial food coloring known as Red 2G (E128, in the European Union) could soon be banned because of concerns about its safety and a purported risk of cancer arising from its aniline metabolite. The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) recently reviewed food additives and recommended this week that the maximum safe limit for this compound should be removed. It did not go as far as to ban Red 2G, but advises that the bureaucratic wing of the EU, the European Commission, should make the decision on whether or not to ban the additive from processed meats, burgers, and sausages.
The additive is already banned in Japan and other countries, and the Irish food authority has opted to ban it as a precautionary measure.
Of course, the latest results on the metabolite, aniline, were obtained in the lab by injecting mice with a huge dose of this compound and sitting back to watch the tumors grow. They really say nothing of the effects of microscopic quantities of the precursor compound added to some meat products that a person may or may not eat on a regular basis. I don’t want to defend colorants too strongly, I’d rather eat nice freshly prepared food than processed myself. That said, not everyone has that choice, but worrying about tiny quantities of a compound that will not actually be 100% metabolized to a potential carcinogen seems an overblown response. The risk pales into insignificance compared with the far greater threat to health of eating vast quantities of saturated fat and red meat, artificially dyed or otherwise.