Dangerous dye used in tandoori, mee rebus, char siew

Consumers Association of Penang says dye banned in US, Canada and Norway, for causing cancer and asthma, commonly used by hawkers.

The Consumers Association of Penang (CAP) wants the health ministry to ban Ponceau 4R, a popular food dye used to prepare mee rebus, tandoori chicken and char siew (roasted pork).

In a statement, CAP President SM Mohamed Idris said the dye – which is known to cause cancer, allergic reactions and asthma upon consumption – is commonly used by hawkers and food producers.

This is to deceive customers by making food look reddish and more presentable.

“It does not enhance the flavour and the taste of the food. It is added to cheat customers at the expense of their health.”

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He also said that Ponceau 4R was produced from petroleum products, adding that it is banned in Canada, Norway and the United States.

Idris revealed that the red dye is also used when preparing pasembor and prawn fritters as well as in turmeric and curry powder.

“Our earlier tests also show that the dye was used to adulterate tea.

“The dye was also found in Indian sweets such as laddu and jelabi.”

He said that the health ministry should investigate and prosecute any individuals or businesses found using the dye in food.

Idris also called for regular tests to be conducted on all food items sold to ensure that they do not contain banned dyes and toxic chemicals.

“Remove Ponceau 4R from the list of approved dyes in the Food Regulations 1985.

“Discourage food operators and manufacturers from using chemical dyes.”

Idris suggested that the health ministry confiscate such food products in the market and advised consumers to avoid hawker food that looked unnaturally bright.