Protein snacks makers do their best to deliver customers the best products they can. However, sometimes they go a bit too far adding bizarre ingredients to their products. And this is a subjective review of such ingredients you can find in protein snacks.

Instead of making it simple, protein bars makers adding more and more ingredients to their products. An ingredients list containing 10 or 15 items is nothing spectacular nowadays. Added sugar? Well, I’m not too surprised. Palm oil? Oops, it still happens. A lot of different syrups? You’ve got it in many of them. But what about more unusual ingredients in them? Well, if you pick Scitec Nutrition CHOCO PRO Mixed Berries White Chocolate Flavour Carbs+Protein Bar, you won’t be disappointed as it contains on of the weirdest ingredients you can find in food, Ponceau 4R (as known as E124).

What is Ponceau 4R?

The weirdest ingredients in protein bars - Ponceau 4R
Ponceau 4R a.k.a. E124

No worries if you hear about it for the first time. You’re not alone. Ponceau 4R (or E124) is a synthetic colourant that may be used as a food colouring, including non-alcoholic flavoured drinks [1], sweets, tinned fruits, jellies, desserts, cough medicines. [6] It is denoted by E number 124. It is known by more than 100 synonyms, including C.I. 16255, Cochineal Red A, C.I. Acid Red 18, Brilliant Scarlet 3R, Brilliant Scarlet 4R, New Coccine and other. [2] It can be used in a variety of food products. It is used in Europe, Asia and Australia, but has not been approved for human consumption by the USFDA, United States Food and Drug Administration. [3]

Health effects of E124 colourant.

There is no evidence for the relationship between food colouring and hyperactive behaviour in children. Or, to be more precise, the results of them are mixed. However, a study of nearly 300 children by the United Kingdom’s Food Standards Agency in 2007 showed that the consumption of food containing dyes could increase hyperactive behaviour in children. The researchers found that hyperactive behaviour by the 8- and 9-year-olds increased with both the mixtures containing artificial colouring additives. The hyperactive behaviour of 3-year-olds increased with the first beverage but not necessarily with the second. [4]

Any other concerns?

They are not confirmed. Although this pretty weird ingredient, Ponceau 4R (or E124), was banned in the USA [3] but is not in Norway [7, 10], as you may read in many sources. [8] In fact, E124 or Ponceau 4R was not allowed in Norway until 2011. But now, Norway have the same regulations on food additives as the EU. Hence, it uses the EU database. [9]

Also, a study published in Toxicological Sciences in 2001 found there was a connection between the colouring and tumours in animals, but called for more conclusive research to be carried out. However, these findings were not confirmed in another study. [11] Therefore, there there is not enough evidence of the effect of Ponceau 4R.

Anything else on the topic?

All right. Let’s assume you’re not 3-year-old children. Or 8- or 9-years-old that was involved in the study. Most likely, you are a bit older than that. And you could find EFSA (European Food Safety Authority) recommendation for Ponceau 4R. They established (in 2009) an Acceptable Daily Intake (ADI) of 0.7mg/kg body weight (BW) per day [12]. However, the WHO (World Health Organization) recommends (from 2011) do not exceed 0-4mg/kg body weight (BW).

Scitec Nutrition CHOCO PRO Mixed Berries White Chocolate Flavour Carbs+Protein Bar
Scitec Nutrition CHOCO PRO Mixed Berries White Chocolate Flavour Carbs+Protein Bar

The thing is, however, there’s no information on dosage of Ponceau 4R in Scitec Nutrition CHOCO PRO Mixed Berries White Chocolate Flavour Carbs+Protein Bar. And that is the most disturbing thing here. Also, you won’t find on the product page [13] or in their store [14]. That’s weird.

Conclusions on Ponceau 4R in food.

As you can see, there is no clear information on Ponceau 4R and its impact on adults. There are ‘only’ some concerns. Also, there is no information on the dosage of it in CHOCO PRO Mixed Berries bar. And although we reviewed it and it scored pretty high, I’d stay away from it. And, just in case, I’d recommend you to do the same.

P.S. We also wrote a bit about another potentially unhealthy ingredient in protein bars, Acesulfame K.