Metanil Yellow : Food Colour


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Food colours and dyes have become increasingly popular in today’s day and age. It is used in the cooking and baking industries to increase the aesthetic value of food. While food colourants in small amounts do not have immediate adverse effects on health, it can cause serious health issues in the long run. In this article, we will discuss the severe health issues caused by one such food colourant – Metanil Yellow. 

What is Metanil Yellow?

Metanil yellow is a yellow dye of the azo class. Azo dyes are primarily used in laboratories as biological indicators, pH indicators, and in research. Metanil yellow is used as a colouring agent in manufacturing industries for a variety of purposes, mainly for its bright yellow colour. It is used in colouring wool, nylon, paper, silk, detergent etc.

Metanil yellow is toxic in nature and is therefore not permitted as a food colourant. Despite its toxic nature, metanil yellow is often used as a food colourant in India in order to enhance the texture and colour of the food items. The most common food items where metanil yellow is used are – turmeric, honey, cooking oil and gram flour. 

Harmful effects of Metanil Yellow 

Now, let us look at how metanil yellow affects the body:

  1. Studies have shown that metanil yellow has adverse effects on the nervous system and in severe cases, it can also cause brain damage. Exposure to metanil yellow can cause damage to both the adult and developing brain. 
  2. The gastrointestinal system in humans is perhaps most affected through metanil yellow. Studies have shown that it can cause gastric toxicity, hepatic (liver) toxicity, and in some cases may even damage the intestines. Metanil yellow changes the configuration of the intestines and reduces the intestine’s capacity to absorb nutrients. In addition to the above, metanil yellow also leads to the degeneration of gastric glands which secrete enzymes that aid digestion.
  3. It also affects the cardiovascular system. It damages the heart tissues and causes cardiotoxicity.
  4. Metanil yellow exposure on kidneys may also lead to the formation of histopathological lesions. 
  5. The colourant also affects the reproductive system. Research shows that metanil yellow affects the reproductive cycle in females and the excess exposure to metanil may also lead to the damage of testicular cells. 

The Bottom Line 

Despite the harmful effects of metanil yellow on our health, there has been no real effort to ban its use in the food industry. Metanil yellow is highly toxic in nature and, as discussed above, has adverse effects on the body. Therefore, necessary precautions have to be taken to prevent the use of metanil yellow and the use of natural and organically sourced food colouring needs to be encouraged. 

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