Tartra what?

Not to be confused with tatar sauce, Tartrazine is a food additive that provides color to packaged food products to make it look more appetizing. It is a yellow azo dye derived from coal tar, the same source of asphalt we see covering Manila roads. When you read the label of a food product, Tartrazine may also be listed as FD&C yellow 5, E102 or C.I. 19140. In other words, it is a chemical food coloring that is cheaper than the natural alternatives such as turmeric, beta carotene, etc in improving the color of packaged food products.

Tartrazine can be found in snack food such as chips and bread snacks, it can also be found in condiments such as local soy sauce, most powdered juice drinks also contain tartrazine. Apart from food, Tartrazine is also widely used in textiles, cosmetics, and even pet food. It is also sometimes fed to chickens for them to produce eggs with bright yellow yolks.

The Food and Drug Administration considers food coloring, such as Tartrazine, to be Generally Recognized As Safe or GRAS. It means that, in small quantities, these additives are allowed in food products.

Figure 1: Soy Sauce with added Tartrazine

What’s the issue?

It doesn’t take a genius to know that any food additive that is synthetic doesn’t exactly benefit the body. But, what exactly does Tartrazine do to our system?

Some of the documented side effects of Tartrazine include (but are not limited to): anxiety, migraine, asthma attack, blurred vision, eczema, other skin rashes, thyroid cancer, Eosinophilia (increase in specific forms of white blood cells), clinical depression, ADHD or hyperactivity, hives, permanent DNA damage, heart palpitations, rhinitis, sleep disturbances/insomnia, general all-over weakness, hot flushes and OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder).