UK’s top takeaway meal gets a tikking off
Chicken Tikka Masala, described in 2001 by British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook as the most popular dish in the UK, may now be giving curry lovers food for thought.
A survey of the dish as served by 66 Yorkshire takeaway outlets found that 27 per cent contained illegally high levels of artificial colour.
The findings were published by West Yorkshire Trading Standards and made headlines throughout UK newspaper and broadcast media.
Nearly all the curries were coloured with a cocktail of tartrazine (E102), sunset yellow (E110), ponceau 4R (E124), carmoisine (E122) and allura red (E129).
All these are targeted for phasing out by the The Food Standards Agency because of their harmful effects on children but there was no legal requirement for the takeaways to label the colours.
Researchers at Southampton University of Southampton have found evidence of increased levels of hyperactivity in young children consuming mixtures of some artificial food colours and the preservative sodium benzoate. Asthma, allergies, rashes, and gastric upsets have also been associated with the colourings.
The government’s Food Standards Agency has had some success in persuading food and drink manufacturers to stop using them. But Graham Hebblethwaite, West Yorkshire’s chief trading standards officer, said this was not the case with the takeaway curry trade.
The law currently allows curry sauces to contain up to 500mg/kg of artificial colour but one sample was found to contain five times this level.
Sweets are allowed to contain up to 300mg/kg of colour and the study showed the worst curry contained the colour equivalent of 3.6kg (8lb) of brightly coloured sweets.
Councillor Andrew Carter, of West Yorkshire Trading Standards Committee, said the guilty takeaways would be revisited and if they had not changed their ways they could be prosecuted.
Some restaurant owners have responded that they no longer use colouring.
One owner in Bradford said: “We don’t really use colouring at all. People have been phasing out the colouring for a while. The restaurants that use colouring have got a lot to hide in their food, but there are lots of top-quality restaurants where there is no problem. Colouring should be minimal.”
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