By Jumana Khamis, Gulf News, August 31, 2013
Sharjah: Concerns over the use of a type of food colouring in imported juices and sweets believed not to be halal have been clarified by Sharjah Municipality. The body has confirmed that all food allowed into the UAE abides by the provisions of Islamic law, including the food colouring E120 and gelatine.
The matter came to light when a Gulf News reader questioned the food colouring ingredient E120 found in several imported sweets, claiming that it was made of crushed insects. Gulf News talked to Sharjah Municipality about the food colouring substance E120 also known as carmine.
Dr Rasha Ahmad Al Qasimi, Assistant Director-General for Health, Environment and Quality at Sharjah Municipality, explained that according to the Gulf Cooperation Council Standardisation Organisation (GSO) 23/1998, the ingredient is in fact a natural substance that is permitted to be used in food.
She added the municipality’s Food Control Department has also extended its efforts to prevent the addition of prohibited food colouring substances to food products, whether they are manufactured or imported, through inspection and laboratory tests. The testing procedures are in compliance with UAE standards and the regulations issued by the Ministry of Environment and Water.
The municipality also defined halal food as food that is permitted by Sharia and emphasised that all food sold in stores and supermarkets in the UAE is halal (with the exception of pork products sold in some supermarkets’ non-Muslim sections.)
Gulf News talked to Dr Babu Shershad from the First Medical Centre in Dubai who said there are three types of the E120 substance.
“From a medical aspect there are three sources of E120 — one is insect-derived, another is plant-based and the third is synthetic,” he said.
Dr Shershad added that as per the regulations, establishments in the food industry are not obliged to mention or disclose which type of E120 food colouring is being used.
The Food Control Department, in collaboration with other monitoring bodies in the UAE, is working to ensure that food products abide by the standards issued by the Emirates Authority for Standardisation and Metrology (Esma), Dr Rasha added.