Other Dyes
Other Dyes  

The US Food and Drug Administration divides food colorants into two categories:

Certifiable Color Additives which are derived from petroleum distillates or coal tars and are essentially synthetic chemicals created in laboratories. These are often referred to as "artificial" colors.

Exempt Color Additives are derived from plant, animal or mineral sources which have been processed in some way. The layman might call these "natural" colors because of their origins, though it's likely they've come out of a factory or chemical plant just like certifiable colors.

Certifiable Colors

There are only seven certified color additives currently used in food:

FD&C # Hue Name Common Uses
Blue #1 Bright Blue Brilliant Blue Beverages, powders, jellies, confections, condiments, icings, syrups, extracts
Blue #2 Royal Blue Indigotine Baked goods, cereals, snack foods, ice cream, confections, cherries
Green #3 Sea Green Fast Green Beverages, puddings, ice cream, sherbet, cherries, baked goods, dairy products
Red #3 Cherry-Red Erythrosine Canned Cherries, confections, baked goods, dairy products, snack foods
Red #40 Orange-Red Allura Red Gelatins, puddings, dairy products, confections, beverages, condiments
Yellow #5 Lemon Yellow Tatrazine Custards, beverages, ice cream, confections, preserves, cereals
Yellow #6 Orange Sunset Yellow Cereals, baked goods, snack foods, ice cream, beverages, confections

Exempt Colors

The hues of exempt colors are as numerous as their sources. The most common exempt colors include:

Name Hue Source Common Uses
Annatto Orange Seed Extract dairy products, popcorn oil, butter mixes, baked goods, icings, snacks, ice cream, salad dressing, yogurts,
Beta-carotene Orange Carrots margarine, non-dairy creamers
Beet powder Purple Beets ice cream, cake icings, mixes, yogurt, gelatin desserts, fruit chews, frozen products, chewable tablets
Caramel color Brown to Red Roasted Sugar dairy foods, drinks, colas, iced tea, cocoa, beer, coffee, icings, cereals, popcorn, gravies, sauces, candies
Carrot oil Orange Carrots  
Carmine Wine Red Cochineal (insect) extract cake icings, hard candy, bakery products, yogurt, ice cream, gelatin desserts, fruit syrups, pet foods, jams/preserves
Fruit juice Many Colors Fruits beverages, jellies, candy, gelatin desserts, dry mixes, dark chocolate
Paprika Red-Orange Red Peppers sausage, cheese sauces, gravies, condiments, salad dressings, baked goods, snacks, icings, cereals
Riboflavin Yellow-Orange vitamin B2  
Saffron Yellow-Orange Crocus Pollen  
Turmeric Yellow Root extract baked products, dairy products, ice cream, yogurts, cakes, cookies, popcorn, candy, cake icings, cereals, sauces, gelatins
Vegetable juice Many Colors Vegetables  

Labeling for Exempt Colors

Exempt Colors must be listed in a product's ingredients list. According to the FDA's labeling rules, they can be declared in one of these ways: as "Artificial Color,'' "Artificial Color Added,'' or "Color Added'' (or by an equally informative term that makes clear that a color additive has been used in the food). Alternatively, such color additives may be declared as "Colored with ______'' or "______ color'', the blank to be filled with the name of the color additive.

If a certified color is used, it must be explicitly declared on the ingredient list, as "FD&C Red Dye #40" or "Red 40"   So if you are reading a products list of ingredients and all you see is the nonspecific "artificial color" then you can be sure it's not a certified color. It may be beet juice extract, it might be carmine or it could be caramel color, but it's certain that it's not Red40.

Colorant Uses

Not all colors can be used in all foods (this is where the food science part comes in) Some colorants don't tolerate temperature extremes well, some work within a narrow range of acidity. The food chemist needs to analyze the food to be colored for fat content, proteins and enzymes, expected temperature ranges, exposure to light and heat and desired shelf life. From all those variables (and the desired color) can they determine which food colorant is best suited for the job.

You may have noticed that Annatto is commonly used to color dairy products an orange or yellow color. This is because Annatto binds to the proteins in milk and is particularly well suited for that task. Tumeric tends to fade with light exposure so you won't find it in products that will be stored in a clear container on an open shelf. Carmine, because it is derived from insects, can never be consider Kosher. While the food scientist has a broad palette of colors to chose from, it takes a deeper study of the requirements to come up with the optimum colorant.



Copyright © 2003
by Red40