(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
The Health Ministry refuses to be transparent in approving the use of artificial food colors, using as an excuse the need for commercial secrecy, according to Yesh Atid MK Karen Elharar, chairman of the State Control Committee.
She said on Tuesday that a solution must be found that balances the public interest against economic or commercial interests of the food companies.
In the committee meeting, MK Yoel Hasson (Zionist Union) said the public serve as “subjects of scientific experiments and are on borrowed time.”
The MKs were upset that Eli Gorden, director of the food service in the ministry, refused to give explanations of food coloring in the industry. Gordon insisted that industry secrets are involved, and authorizations involve manufacturing processes in which information about food colors cannot be revealed.
Hasson called for tightening controls on the use of food colors, adding that limitations on their use in manufactured food are “the most liberal in the world,” and much more lenient than the US Food and Drug Administration and the European authorities.
Their safety and effects on health are not tested carefully enough, he charged. When the Health Ministry approves a food coloring, it must be transparent to ensure that economic considerations are not involved, he said. “The ministry doesn’t stick to the same restrictions made by international authorities.”
The MK added that since 2001, the ministry has not reassessed and updated its list of safe food colors.
Shelly Levy, who works in the Knesset’s information and research center and carried out an in-depth study of food coloring, said that today, 15 of them are made from coal tar, but the ministry has so far failed to define the health risks “due to constant changes in the production technologies, changes in basic raw materials and so on.” In addition, she said, there is no uniformity in guidelines of how much can be consumed daily.
Gordon insisted that “Israel’s rules are no different from those in other Western countries. All food colorings used here today are safe for consumption. Any material that is prohibited is checked carefully according to what it’s used for. Not everything that is forbidden in a beverage is problematic in a solid food, and vice versa. The amount of the coloring is also significant. Each component is checked individually,” he said.