Amaranth (E123)

Amaranth, trisodium salt or food additive E123 is a substance that has pronounced coloring properties. That is why for a long time it was used in the food industry as a food coloring: in certain proportions, it can give food a red, purple, purple, brown-red or blue-red color. Today, the main consumer of the amaranth dye is the cosmetics industry. The ban on the use of this substance in food was introduced not so long ago, and the reason for this was its pronounced toxic and toxic properties. Therefore, in cosmetic products, the addition of amaranth is strictly regulated, although there is every chance that it will also be completely banned in this area.

Chemical properties of the additive

Azo dye E123 appears as a violet, red-brown or purple powder. It is obtained during the processing of coal tar. In nature, there is a plant of the same name, but the substance has nothing to do with it. The additive dissolves well in water, and at a temperature of 120 degrees Celsius and above, it begins to decompose into elements, but does not undergo melting.

Persistent chemical the properties of the substance are explained by the presence of nitrogen-containing coloring compounds in its composition. Due to the fact that amaranth is, in fact, a waste product of the coal industry, its cost is very low, which is why it has gained considerable popularity among industrialists.

The main property of a substance is coloring. It is added to food in order to improve and intensify its natural color, to give it a color different from its natural color, or to restore color that has changed or deteriorated during heat or other processing.

The food additive E123 does not affect the taste properties of food. The same applies to texture, shelf life and other culinary characteristics of products. Amaranth is only responsible for color changes.

Use of the substance: from sheepskin coat to jam

Given the intensity of the pigment contained in the dye, it does an excellent job of coloring not only cakes or ice cream. In the textile industry, amaranth is used to dye fabrics instead of the more expensive and less common cochineal. In the field of manufacturing leather goods, jackets, sheepskin coats and fur coats, E123 is also popular: when you see an unusual fur coat of bright burgundy or scarlet color, you can practically be sure that it was dyed with amaranth.

E123 dye is also used to give red, pink, purple or blue color to paper or cardboard.

In the cosmetics industry, the substance is a common ingredient in lipsticks, blushes, nail polishes, and other "colored" varieties of color cosmetics and care products.

The use of amaranth in food products is prohibited in Russia, Ukraine and the United States. However, the European Union has not introduced such restrictions on its territory.

There you can easily buy, for example, a can of canned cherries with the code E123 in the composition.

In addition, amaranth is added to such products:

  • dry mixes for baking, jelly, biscuits;
  • breakfast cereals;
  • sugary carbonated drinks;
  • confectionery (ice cream, desserts, puddings, lollipops, dragees);
  • chewing gums;
  • canned fruits with characteristic color.

Danger of using amaranth dye

The substance has been freely used for a long time in the production of various foods, desserts, baby food. However, in the 70s of the last century, studies conducted in the United States gave such frightening results that since that time, Americans have almost completely stopped using this additive for cooking. Later, a number of other countries joined them.

Experiments involving laboratory rats showed that, as a result of the consumption of amaranth, the yield of various tumors in rodents increased, which indicates its carcinogenic effect. Due to its allergen properties, the substance is extremely dangerous for people with allergies and asthmatics, it can cause hives, itching, chronic runny nose. It was also revealed a negative effect on the liver and kidneys, violations in the functioning of these organs.

Pregnant women are forbidden to encounter the dye in any form: once in the body, it can cause malformations in the fetus, and also threatens the unborn baby with congenital allergies.

Foods containing amaranth are also not recommended for children, as it has been reported to promote anxiety, hyperactivity, aggression, and attention deficit disorder.

Today, in states where the use of the substance is not prohibited, product packages containing this additive must be labeled in a special way to draw the attention of the buyer to it.

A bright red, purple or violet powder with strong and persistent coloring properties is still very popular in the UK. It can be found in canned berries and fruits, desserts, jellies and other very attractive looking products.

Exactly why Britain and other countries of the European Union so boldly ignore the results of research by chemists and biologists about the properties of amaranth is unknown. However, its danger and harm to human health over the past 50 years is no longer in doubt: the substance has a strong mutagenic, toxic and oncogenic effect, and is a powerful allergen. Although to date, official bans on the use of this dye in cosmetics have not yet been introduced in all states, manufacturers are trying to use it in smaller quantities, gradually switching to more harmless additives. The reason is that amaranth can cause hives not only from eating, but also from contact with mucous membranes and skin. Such cases have been recorded more than once in world practice, in fact, why the attitude towards the substance today has become extremely negative in most countries.

  1. Bolotov, V. M. Food dyes: classification, properties, analysis, application / V. M. Bolotov, A. P. Nechaev, L. A. Sarafanov. - St. Petersburg: Giord, 2008. - 240 p.: ill.