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By Dr Khursheed Ahmad Wani

Colour is perceived as one of the important sensory cue as one goes to taste the food and beverages. Changing the hue or intensity/saturation of the color of food and beverage items can exert a sometimes dramatic impact on the expectations, and hence on the subsequent experiences, of consumers. Food colors can have rather different meanings and hence give rise to differing expectations, in different age groups, and in different cultures. Kashmiri people, especially Kashmiri Wazawan are no exception to this. The important ethnic meat products of wazwan include kabab, tabak maaz, aab gosh, rogan josh, nate-yakhni, rista, and goshtaba. The local knowledge and information pertaining to the ingredients, local taste preferences, and history of the product formulations passed down from generation to generation. However, with the passage of time the competition has flourished not only in waza community but among the people as ours is now a totally show off society. We don’t usually care of health when it comes to compete for better wazawan. Hence, different tricks are being used to made this food tasty and look better. One such method is to add colours like Orange Red’, ‘Sun Red’ and ‘Sun Yellow in Kashmir valley. However, these dyes are very dangerous as has been reported by various health experts and researchers. Natural colors like b-carotene, chlorophyll, caramel, annatto and saffron are good. However, synthetic colorants include the permitted organic synthetic dyes, Brilliant blue, tartrazine, erythrosine, ponceau 4R, allura red, sunset yellow, fast red E, orange GGN and scarlet GN are dangerous. Synthetic dyes like Orange Red, Sun Red and Sun Yellow are widely used due to their coloring properties, uniformity, stability and low cost. However, many of them become toxic after prolonged use, causing health problems such as indigestion, anemia and allergic reactions as asthma and urticaria, pathological lesions in the brain, kidney, spleen and liver, tumors and cancer, paralysis, mental retardation, abnormalities in offspring, growth retardation and eye defects resulting in blindness. Natural flavors, which are vegetables or animal products, are used either as such or as processed and acceptable for human consumption, for example fruit juices, herbs and spices. Synthetic flavors, which are substances not yet been identified in natural products intended for human consumption, are either processed or not, for example ethylvanillin and 2-methyl pentonic acid which has strawberry flavor. Among the biochemical systems which are likely to be affected by the ingestion of these food additives is the free radicals system because of its role in tissue damage. The fact that a chemical compound has got a median lethal dose (LD50) proves beyond doubt that, these dyes used in Kashmiri Wazawan is not 100% safe and its use must be restricted by legal interventions. Currently, there are no direct studies about these dyes (used in Kashmiri Wazawan) that can lead to a conclusion that they may cause cancers, but indirect studies suggest that they may be carcinogenic. It would be better to go without these dyes as Kashmiri wazwan are part of the identity of the local population with unique sensory attributes and have economic potential for organized sector participants. We must remember that eating involves more than just taste. It is a full sensory experience and we can enjoy it too without these harmful dyes.
(The author teaches Environmental Science at GDC Bijbehara and is associated with ALACC Naina)