Malawi Bureau of Standards lifts ban on the use of tartrazine as a food additive

MALAWI – Malawi Bureau of Standards (MBS) has lifted the ban on the use of food additive tartrazine that was being used in production of beverages such as squashes, cordials and other flavoured drinks.

The ban on the use of the food additive was effected last year 2018 when the standard body took a note of some companies using it following raised concerns by consumers.

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This led to laboratory tests conducted on the products and in turn the production companies were forced to halt operations and withdraw their products from the market as MBS conducted further investigations and research.

MBS based its first order to stop using tartrazine referencing MS 237:2008, Food Additives – General Standard in accordance to an international standard developed by the Food & Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and World Health Organisation (WHO) Codex Alimentarius Commission.

The standard provides a list of permitted food additives and the limits of their use in food, covering the following functional classes, among others; acidity regulators, anticaking agents, antioxidants, carbonating agents, colourants, colour retention agents, emulsifiers, flavor enhancers, flour treatment agents, foaming agents, packaging gases, preservatives, raising agents, stabilizers, sweeteners, thickeners.

MBS said “The standard at the time only allowed the use of tartrazine in the following categories of foods: Flavoured fluid milk drinks Smoked, dried, fermented, and/or salted fish and fish products, including mollusks, crustaceans, and echinoderms Fully preserved, including canned or fermented fish and fish products, including mollusks, crustaceans, and echinoderms; and Soups and broths”

MBS embarked to research on worldwide use of additive tartrazine, more so after concerned food manufacturers, importers and distributors themselves asked the regulator to reconsider its decision, noting that tartrazine is permitted for use in beverages in some countries.

“The information gathered further indicated that tartrazine may cause allergic reactions among asthmatics and aspirin intolerant people but it does not pose a significant health hazard,” said the bureau.

Countries that permit the use of tartrazine require proper labelling of products to make consumers aware and make informed decision.

After gathering the relevant information the standard body convened a technical committee meeting on alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages on 4th October 2019, where it was recommended to adopt the provision to permit the use of tartrazine in some products covered by some Malawi standards based on the limits set by the European Union Registration (94/36/EC).

 “MBS assures the General public that it will continue to monitor compliance do all relevant products on the market against the requirements of the applicable mandatory Malawi Standards,” stated a statement by MBS.

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