Cotton candy won’t give you cancer, but it will rot your teeth if you eat too much, leading experts insisted today.
Their reassuring verdict comes after an Indian state banned the candy because it contained a carcinogenic substance.
Since 2013, the use of rhodamine-B, the additive that triggered the alarm, has been banned in foods and drinks made in Britain and the EU due to its possible risk of causing cancer.
As such, experts claimed there was “very little chance” of cotton candy being sold in UK parks and fairs containing the substance. They argued that imported bags of pre-made dental floss are slightly more likely to have rhodamine-B lurking around.
However, they argued that the greatest danger came from its abundance of sugar.
Rhodamine B appears green in powder form, but when added to water it turns a vivid fluorescent pink color. It is also used for cosmetics, textile dyes and inks. In the UK it is commonly used to stain slides in laboratories and in the wastewater industry to help locate leaks in drains.
Tamil Nadu, southern India, banned the sale of the candy last week after laboratory tests revealed that cotton candy contained rhodamine-B as an artificial coloring agent. According to India’s Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006, the chemical is a “substandard” and “unsafe” food.
Professor Tom Sanders, a nutrition and dietetics expert at King’s College London, told MailOnline: “The biggest danger posed by cotton candy is that it promotes cavities in children.”
Meanwhile, the British Nutrition Foundation added: “From a nutritional perspective, cotton candy is made up almost exclusively of sugar.
“This means it is a concern for both sugar and calorie intake and dental health, particularly because it tends to stick to teeth.
“Sugars can be in contact with teeth for long periods after eating.”
Dr Duane Mellor, dietitian at Aston University, said: “The main ingredient in cotton candy is perhaps the one that poses the greatest health challenges.
“Finely spun sugar is very sticky and can stick to teeth, which would allow bacteria to ferment it to produce acids, which are a major factor in cavities.
‘Therefore, cotton candy, even without dyes, is not a healthy food.
“It’s made almost entirely with sugar and a little bit of food coloring is added.”
Rhodamine B appears green in powder form, but when added to water it turns a vivid fluorescent pink color. It is also used for cosmetics, textile dyes and inks.
In the UK, it is commonly used to stain slides in laboratories and in the wastewater industry to help locate leaks in drains.
Tamil Nadu, in southern India, banned the sale of the candy last week after laboratory tests revealed that cotton candy contained rhodamine-B.
According to India’s Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006, the chemical is a “substandard” and “unsafe” food.
Earlier this month, the union territory Puducherry also banned the famous children’s treat.
Other states are preparing to conduct their own tests on cotton candy sold locally.
Experts said the findings in India were “unlikely” to create a new problem in the UK. However, they warned that smaller ships that typically evade testing pose a “greater” risk.
In the United Kingdom, the chemical is banned under the “Food Additives, Flavourings, Enzymes and Extraction Solvents (England) Act 2013”.
The dye fluoresces under ultraviolet light, which can help companies identify them, according to Trading Standards.
Professor Chris Elliott, Professor of Food Safety at Queen’s University Belfast (QUB), told MailOnline: “Illegal and potentially toxic dyes such as rhodamine-B can be introduced into a variety of different foods – spices are another prime example. “.
‘Any food to which food coloring has been added (cakes, desserts) is susceptible to this form of food fraud.
‘With the checks and testing carried out by major retailers on the authenticity of many food products, it would be very unlikely that there would be a problem in this sector.
“However, the risks are much higher for smaller stores and pay-and-carry establishments that have very different supply chains and do virtually no testing at all.”
He added that the wood used is another potential risk.
Professor Elliott said: ‘Food grade wood should be used in these products, but non-food grade wood is much cheaper.
“If this happens, there is a risk of the cotton candy becoming contaminated due to chemicals leaching into the cotton candy.”
Meanwhile, Professor John Fawell, biologist and visiting professor at Cranfield University’s Water Institute, said: ‘In the past, rhodamine-B was used as a tracking dye in groundwater.
“There is some indication of carcinogenic potential, but exposure would have to be high and prolonged to be of clinical concern.
“That said, there are better alternatives and the use of a questionable chemical is absolutely inappropriate.”
In 2014, the FSA issued a major alert to its customers after testing in West Yorkshire revealed traces of rhodamine B had been found in traditional Asian sweets.
A trading standards officer initially spotted the problem after noticing a garish color to sweets sold at an Asian bakery in Calderdale, West Yorkshire.