Lack of genotoxic effect of food dyes amaranth, sunset yellow and tartrazine and their metabolites in the gut micronucleus assay in mice

Food Chem Toxicol. 2009 Feb;47(2):443-8. doi: 10.1016/j.fct.2008.11.034. Epub 2008 Dec 6.


The food dyes amaranth, sunset yellow and tartrazine were administered twice, at 24h intervals, by oral gavage to mice and assessed in the in vivo gut micronucleus test for genotoxic effects (frequency of micronucleated cells) and toxicity (apoptotic and mitotic cells). The concentrations of each compound and their main metabolites (sulfanilic acid and naphthionic acid) were measured in faeces during a 24-h period after single oral administrations of the food dyes to mice. Parent dye compounds and their main aromatic amine metabolites were detected in significant amounts in the environment of colonic cells. Acute oral exposure to food dye additives amaranth, sunset yellow and tartrazine did not induce genotoxic effect in the micronucleus gut assay in mice at doses up to 2000 mg/kg b.w. Food dyes administration increased the mitotic cells at all dose levels when compared to controls. These results suggest that the transient DNA damages previously observed in the colon of mice treated by amaranth and tartrazine by the in vivo comet assay [Sasaki, Y.F., Kawaguchi, S., Kamaya, A., Ohshita, M., Kabasawa, K., Iwama, K., Taniguchi, K., Tsuda, S., 2002. The comet assay with 8 mouse organs: results with 39 currently used food additives. Mutat. Res. 519, 103-119] are unable to be fixed in stable genotoxic lesions and might be partly explained by local cytotoxicity of the dyes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Oral
  • Amaranth Dye / analysis
  • Amaranth Dye / pharmacokinetics
  • Amaranth Dye / toxicity*
  • Animals
  • Azo Compounds / analysis
  • Azo Compounds / pharmacokinetics
  • Azo Compounds / toxicity*
  • Colon / drug effects
  • Colon / pathology
  • Coloring Agents / analysis
  • Coloring Agents / pharmacokinetics
  • Coloring Agents / toxicity*
  • Comet Assay
  • DNA Damage
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Feces / chemistry
  • Intestinal Mucosa / drug effects
  • Intestinal Mucosa / pathology
  • Mice
  • Micronuclei, Chromosome-Defective / chemically induced
  • Micronucleus Tests
  • Mitosis / drug effects
  • Mutagens / classification
  • Mutagens / pharmacokinetics
  • Mutagens / toxicity*
  • Tartrazine / analysis
  • Tartrazine / pharmacokinetics
  • Tartrazine / toxicity*


  • Azo Compounds
  • Coloring Agents
  • Mutagens
  • Amaranth Dye
  • 6-hydroxy-5-((p- sulfophenyl)azo)-2-naphthalenesulfonic acid disodium salt
  • Tartrazine