Karnataka government bans use of artificial food colouring in preparation of kebabs

Karnataka’s health department recently made headlines by banning the use of artificial colours in kebabs, including vegetarian, fish, and chicken varieties. This move aims to safeguard public health, aligning with the Food Safety and Standards Act of 2006. Food vendors violating this order could face severe penalties, including imprisonment and hefty fines. This article delves into the background, implications, and broader context of this significant decision.

Background of the Ban

The decision to ban artificial colours in kebabs stems from growing concerns about food safety. The Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006, provides the legal framework for ensuring that food products in India are safe for consumption. The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI), particularly its Karnataka branch, has been vigilant in monitoring food safety standards. After detecting harmful artificial colours in kebabs, the FSSAI decided to act decisively to protect consumers.

Investigation and Findings

The initial trigger for the ban was a series of media reports highlighting the poor quality of kebabs sold across Karnataka. These reports prompted a thorough investigation, during which 39 samples of kebabs were collected from various vendors and tested in state laboratories. The results were alarming: eight variants of kebabs were found to contain sunset yellow and carmoisine, two artificial colours known for their potential health risks.

Health Risks of Artificial Colours

Artificial food colours have long been associated with various health risks. Sunset yellow and carmoisine, in particular, can cause allergic reactions, hyperactivity in children, and even cancer in severe cases. The consumption of these colours over time can lead to significant health problems, making their use in food products a serious concern for public health authorities.

Government Action

In response to these findings, Karnataka’s health department swiftly moved to ban the use of artificial colours in kebabs. Health Minister Dinesh Gundu Rao emphasized the government’s commitment to food safety, stating that stringent action would be taken against any restaurant found using these harmful chemicals. Under the Food Safety and Standards (Food Products Standards and Food Additives) Regulations, 2011, violators can face up to seven years in prison and fines of up to ₹10 lakh.

Impact on Vendors and Consumers

The ban has significant implications for both food vendors and consumers. Vendors must now ensure that their kebabs are free from artificial colours, which may require changes in their preparation methods and sourcing of ingredients. Consumers, on the other hand, can enjoy greater peace of mind knowing that the kebabs they purchase are safer and healthier.

Previous Bans and Actions

This is not the first time Karnataka has taken action against harmful food additives. In March, the state banned the use of Rhodamine-B, a colouring agent commonly found in dishes like Gobi Manchurian and cotton candy. Karnataka follows in the footsteps of Tamil Nadu and Goa, which have also banned certain artificial food colours after discovering their harmful effects.

The Role of Media in Food Safety

Media coverage played a crucial role in bringing the issue of artificial colours in kebabs to light. Investigative reports on the substandard quality of kebabs prompted government action and heightened public awareness. The media’s role in monitoring food safety and holding vendors accountable is invaluable in maintaining high standards.

Public Health Initiatives

Karnataka’s ban on artificial colours in kebabs is part of a broader effort to enhance food safety. The state government is committed to continuous monitoring and regulation of food products to ensure they meet safety standards. Future initiatives may include stricter regulations and more frequent inspections to prevent the use of harmful additives.

Consumer Awareness

Consumer awareness is a vital component of food safety. Educating the public about the risks associated with artificial colours and how to identify them can empower consumers to make safer choices. Checking ingredient labels and opting for naturally coloured foods are simple steps that can significantly reduce health risks.

Restaurant Compliance

Restaurants must adapt to the new regulations by eliminating artificial colours from their recipes. This transition may involve finding natural alternatives and training staff on safe food preparation practices. The government and food safety authorities can support this process by providing resources and guidance to help restaurants comply with the new rules.

Alternative Colouring Methods

Natural food colouring options, such as turmeric, beetroot, and spinach, offer safe and healthy alternatives to artificial colours. These natural colours not only enhance the visual appeal of food but also add nutritional value. Embracing these alternatives can benefit both vendors and consumers, promoting a culture of health-conscious eating.


The Karnataka health department’s ban on artificial colours in kebabs marks a significant step towards ensuring food safety. By addressing the risks associated with harmful additives, the state is prioritizing the health and well-being of its citizens. This proactive approach sets a positive example for other regions and highlights the importance of rigorous food safety standards.

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