CAUTION: IS PALM OIL SAFE TO EAT?
WE LOOK AT THE EFFECT OF PALM OIL ADULTRATION WITH ‘SUDAN IV DYE’ AND ‘AZO DYE’ TO OUR HEALTH
Palm oil makes up nearly fifty percent of edible oils consumed worldwide, and is used in soups and stews, particularly in Africa and amongst Africans in diaspora.
UK Trading Standards revealed in 2005 that some palm oil products sold to consumers contained the illegal dye, Sudan IV, which is also potentially genotoxic - which means it can be destructive to human DNA.
Generally, Sudan dyes are red dyes that are used in industrial applications as colouring solvents, oils, waxes, petrol, and shoe and floor polishes, and as such should not be used in foods. Sudan dyes have been shown to cause cancer in laboratory animals and these findings could also be significant for human health. Because Sudan dyes may contribute to the development of cancer in people, they are not considered safe to eat.
The alert from UK Food Standards Agency (FSA) in 2005 highlighted certain brands of popular palm oil brands contaminated with Sudan dyes, and advised the products to be withdrawn from shop
s shelves. In 2017, Trading Standards again revealed that this particular brand of palm oil containing the illegal dye Sudan IV, was still in circulation and must be withdrawn. The FSA UK specifically identified the ‘Zomi’ brand of palm oil packaged and distributed by many popular African foods distribution companies in UK.
Every year since 2017, frequent warnings have been issued by International Food Safety Alert Systems such as RSFF and INFOSAN, about the Sudan IV dye used in contaminating foods from the other countries.
Recently, in January 2023, the FSA UK issued more warning to the public not to use Zomi Palm oil from the ‘Bigi-mama’ company because it is contaminated. The product is said to be available in plastic one-litre bottles with an expiry date of 25 June 2025, and the batch number is A2001.
Also, recently, the Ghana Food and Drugs Authority (FDA) issued a stern warning to palm oil producers across the nation to stop mixing Sudan dye in Palm oil to make it more red, before selling it.
The (Nigeria) National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) also raised concerns over the use of ‘Azo’ dye, the commonest azo dyes in the food industry have been considered to be the yellow dyes (sunset yellow and tartrazine) and red dyes (azorubine, ponceau, amaranth, and allura red) to make palm oil ‘look reddish and attractive’.
The best advice to consumers everywhere would be to read the labels on the containers. However, where producers of palm oil do not show the hidden adverse ingredients on the list, consumers must use their eyes to examine oils before purchase. If it is too red, then something may be wrong with it. Traditionally, customers in the local market should taste the oil before buying it.
Below are sample photos of pure and adulterated palm Oil: Compare and Contrast
- Adulterated Palm Oil (Bright RED) 2. Pure Unadulterated Palm Oil
Arit Ana, FAfN, FRSPH, Rnutr, RD