A food coloring is any substance that is added to food or drink to change its color. It is sometimes used in cooking.
Some food colorings are extracted from natural sources, others are artificially synthesized. They are used for various purposes, such as to enhance or mask natural food colors, to provide identity to foods, and to decorate cakes and desserts. They offset the loss of natural colors when foods are exposed to light, air, temperature extremes, and moisture. Some are thought to protect flavors and vitamins present in foods from damage by light. Recent studies indicate that certain artificial coloring agents (and synthetic food preservatives) aggravate symptoms of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Several countries have therefore banned the use of some colorants.
People associate certain colors with certain flavors, and the color of food can influence the perceived flavor, in anything from candy to wine. For this reason, food manufacturers add dyes to their products. Sometimes, the aim is to simulate a color that is perceived by the consumer as natural, such as adding red coloring to glacé cherries (which would otherwise be beige). At other times, it is for effect, such as a variety of children's cereals or the green ketchup that Heinz launched in 2000.
Although most consumers are aware that foods with bright or unnatural colors likely contain food coloring, far fewer people know that seemingly "natural" foods such as oranges and salmon are sometimes also dyed to mask natural variations in color. Color variation in foods throughout the seasons and the effects of processing and storage often make color addition commercially advantageous to maintain the color expected or preferred by the consumer.
Some of the primary reasons for adding food coloring include:
Food colorings are tested for safety by various bodies around the world and sometimes different bodies have different views on food color safety. In the United States, FD&C (Foods, Drugs and Cosmetics) numbers are given to synthetic food dyes that do not exist in nature. In the European Union, E numbers are used for all additives approved in food applications.
Most other countries have their own regulations and list of food colors, which can be used in various applications, including maximum daily intake limits.
Natural colors are not required to be tested by FDA in the United States and many other countries.
Several food dyes are derived from natural sources. Prominent examples are given below.
Seven dyes were initially approved under the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906, but several of those have been delisted and replacements have been found.
In the USA, the following seven artificial colorings are permitted in food (the most common in bold), as of 2007:
Although earlier research showed no correlation between ADHD and food dyes, new studies indicate that synthetic preservatives and artificial coloring agents aggravate symptoms in both those affected by this disorder and in the general population. Older studies were inconclusive quite possibly due to inadequate clinical methods of measuring offending behavior. Parental reports were more accurate indicators of the presence of additives than clinical tests. Several major studies show that academic performance increased and disciplinary problems decreased in large, non-ADHD student populations when artificial ingredients, including artificial colors, were eliminated from school food programs.
In the United States, certifiable color additives are available for use in food as either "dyes" or "lakes."
Dyes dissolve in water, but they are not soluble in oil. They are manufactured as powders, granules, liquids, or other special purpose forms. They can be used in beverages, dry mixes, baked goods, confections, dairy products, pet foods, and a variety of other products. Dyes also have side effects which lakes do not, including the fact that large amounts of dyes ingested can color stools.
Lakes are the combination of dyes and insoluble material. Lakes tint by dispersion. They are not oil soluble, but they are oil dispersible. Lakes are more stable than dyes and are ideal for coloring products containing fats and oils or items lacking sufficient moisture to dissolve dyes. Typical uses include coated tablets, cake and donut mixes, hard candies and chewing gums, lipsticks, soaps, shampoos, and talc.
Because food dyes are generally safer to use than normal artistic dyes and pigments, some artists have been using food coloring for painting pictures, especially in forms such as bodypainting. Also, food coloring can serve as a means of dyeing fabric. It can be fixed on nylon and animal fibers, but it is not wash-fast when used on cotton, hemp, and other plant fibers.
All links retrieved April 17, 2017.
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