In the present study, an attempt has been made to understand the exposure assessment of food colors through 2 major groups, sweets and savories, at a national level so as to evolve a scientific yardstick to fix levels of colors in commodities based on technological and safety requirement. A vast majority of colored food commodities (83.6%) were found to employ permitted colors and confirmed a marked decline in the trend of use of nonpermitted colors (NPCs). Of the 4 zones of India, East zone showed the maximum adulteration (80.3%) both by exceeding the prescribed limits of permitted colors (72.3%) and the use of NPCs (28.7%). Tartrazine was the most popular color among the permitted list, which ranged from 12.5 to 1091 mg/kg. Rhodamine B was the most prevalent dye in the NPCs group. On the basis of average consumption of food commodities and average levels of detected colors, the intake of Sunset Yellow FCF saturates the acceptable daily intake limit to a maximum of 47.8% in children, which is a cause of concern. The uniform maximum permissible limit of synthetic colors at 100 mg/kg under the Indian rules thus needs to be reviewed and should rather be governed by the technological necessity and the consumption profiles of food commodities so that the vulnerable population should not unnecessary be exposed to excessive amounts of synthetic colors to pose health risks.
Many developed countries have collected information on intake of food additives. But in India no national level surveillance on food additives has been conducted in commodities like sweets and savories so far, though some state wise exposure assessment studies have been undertaken. The manuscript shall be useful to collect data on intake of colors from these 2 major commodities as these are frequently consumed by both children and adult population during normal and festive seasons. This may be important for the international agencies during risk analysis processes, since EFSA and JECFA are re-evaluating the acceptable daily intake of some of the permitted food colors.