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CTL® Bielefeld GmbH:
28 May 2013

Use of Tattoo Colorants as Food Colours - Heavy Metals

Several investigations of Tattoo- and Permanent Make-Up products for heavy metals by authorities are leading to a ban of these products. There is, however, a EU directive for the maximum contents of heavy metals in food colourants. The permitted values are much higher than for Tattoo Products. If, therefore, products are withdrawn for use as a tattoo colourant it seems to be an alternative to use the products in food.

Here are the values in comparison:


of 22 December 2008

laying down specific purity criteria concerning colours for use in foodstuffs



Water soluble matter Not more than 1,0 %

By total dissolution

Arsenic - Not more than 5 mg/kg

Barium - Not more than 50 mg/kg

Cadmium - Not more than 5 mg/kg

Chromium - Not more than 100 mg/kg

Copper - Not more than 50 mg/kg

Lead - Not more than 20 mg/kg

Mercury - Not more than 1 mg/kg

Nickel - Not more than 200 mg/kg

Zinc - Not more than 100 mg/kg


 mg/kg approx ppm 


Table 3 Maximum allowed concentrations of impurities in products for tattoos and PMU

Element or compound in ppm

Arsenic (As) 2

Barium (Ba) 50

Cadmium (Cd) 0.2

Cobalt (Co) 25

Chromium (Cr) (VI) 0.2

Copper (Cu) soluble 25

Mercury (Hg) 0.2

Nickel (Ni) As low as technically achievable

Lead (Pb) 2

Selenium (Se) 2

Antimony (Sb) 2

Tin (Sn) 50

Zinc (Zn) 50

We leave it up to the suppliers to decide wether they would like to use their tattoo or permanent make-up products as food colourants if they are withdrawn for use in tattooing.

28 May 2013. © CTL® Bielefeld GmbH

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Contact - Bielefeld

CTL® Bielefeld
Chemisch-Technologisches Laboratorium
Krackser Str. 12
33659 Bielefeld

Tel. +49 521 400 82 89 0