E124 – Ponceau 4R

What is E124 ?

E124 (Ponceau 4R) is a food additive from the category of synthetic azo dyes. This dye is highly soluble in water, making it a popular choice for a variety of foods that require vibrant red hues. It is used in regulated quantities in some alcoholic beverages like bitter or “Americano” types, with the molecular formula C20H11N2Na3O10S3.

Among synthetic dyes used in food products, E124 stands out for its vivid scarlet shade and widespread use. Also known as Cochineal Red A, this synthetic dye has a complex history and a broad range of applications.

Read also: What is potassium sorbate – E202 ?


What is the recommended daily dose ?

The use of food additive E124 is regulated differently around the globe. In the European Union, it is allowed to be used in food products within specified limits, while in the United States, the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) has not approved it for use in food products.

For E124, the maximum acceptable daily intake has been set for Europe by EFSA (European Food Safety Authority) at 0-4 mg/kg body weight/day. In Europe, the maximum permissible inclusion levels in foods and beverages range between 50 and 250 mg/kg.

In which foods can the E124 food additive be found ?

The primary use of the E124 food additive is in the food industry. It is commonly found in a wide range of products, including:

  • Confectionery products: E124 is used in candies, sweets, and jellies to achieve a bright red color, which is appealing to consumers.
  • Beverages: Soft drinks, flavored waters, and some alcoholic beverages may contain this dye to enhance visual appeal.
  • Processed foods: Products such as sauces, condiments, and preserved fruits sometimes use E124 to maintain a consistent and attractive appearance.

E124 (Ponceau 4R) is also used in cosmetic and pharmaceutical products, where it serves as a colorant in items such as lipsticks, eyeshadows, and medicinal syrups.

The European InfoCons App, helps the consumer with the product label interpretation, calories, sugar and salt intake projections, safety food alerts, extended analysis of products the consumer save, scan log and the means to react (complain, rate) to a product anywhere in the world.

Contraindications and risks

The safety of the E124 food additive has been a significant topic of discussion for several years. Some studies have suggested that the combination of azo dyes with benzoates (E210-215) promotes hyperactivity in children (ADHD syndrome). In response, many manufacturers have either reduced the use of E124 or replaced it with natural alternatives.

It is not allowed in foods intended for infants and young children.

Allergic reactions are another concern. Although rare, some individuals may exhibit sensitivity to azo dyes, manifesting as skin rashes, asthma, or other allergic symptoms. Regulatory agencies require labeling of products containing E124 to inform consumers of its presence.

A significant proportion of scientific publications highlight the issue of qualitative and quantitative determination of the E124 food additive, amaranth (E123), tartrazine (E102), and other dyes in food and medicines.

Read also: How to Choose Fruits and Vegetables at the Store


Limiting the amount of E124 additive in the diet

As consumer preferences shift towards natural ingredients, alternatives to synthetic additives are gaining ground. Natural colorants such as E162 derived from red beet or E163 anthocyanins and anthocyanidins, derived from fruits and vegetables, are being used more frequently, although they often come with challenges related to stability and cost.

Ultimately, the choice of colorant depends on the preferences of both the manufacturer and the consumers. By reading nutritional labels and observing the contents of daily grocery items, foods containing this food additive can be limited.

These preferred products can be replaced with similar ones that have a cleaner label or use natural additives.

Author – Cosmina Nițu

Master in Nutrition – Infant and new born nutrition




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