The 7 Wonders of the Food Coloring World

The 7 Wonders of the Food Coloring World


In the process of making food or drink, especially mass-produced by machine, the accuracy of the end product's can be a bit skewed. Because certain colors are associated with certain flavors, and vice versa, food coloring was introduced in acknowledgment to its correlation to perceived flavors. Coloring has also been added to mask color loss, aid food identification, and for decoration, as in cake icing. Food Coloring even existed in the times of early Rome, when saffron, carrots, pomegranates, grapes, mulberries, spinach, beets, parsley, and flowers were employed as dyeing agents.

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Seven Major Food Color Additives

Today, because of chemical advances, not only are more vibrant and often superfluous colors available, but the usage of these chemicals is far more widespread. Often on a list of ingredients, one can find "for color" rather easily. However, until the Food and Drug Act of 1906, regulation for coloring was not in place for the United States of America. The current regulations allow for seven main dyeing agents.

Blue No. 1

First among the accepted list is Blue No. 1, or Brilliant Blue FCF, which creates -- as you might have guessed -- a medium blue shade. This coloring was actually banned in Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Norway, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland, but has since been let back into most of the countries under the European Union. Blue No. 1 can be found in some dairy products, sweets, and drinks. Blue No. 1 uses coal tar as one of its components. Because of the use of coal tar, many organizations and circles are speaking out and boycotting products using colors with coal tar because it is a carcinogenic in large quantities, known to cause tumors in lab rats.

   bold blue skittles

It is also feared because only 50% of coal tar's components have been identified. One thing that Blue No. 1 does not cause is hyperactivity, which was disproved after testing. Only 95% of the coloring is absorbed by the body's gastro-intestinal lining.

Blue No. 2

dark blueberries   

Second is Blue No. 2, which is commonly added to tablets and capsules, but is also used in ice cream, sweets, baked goods, confectionery, and cookies. Also known as Indigotine, the color was extracted originally from several species of plant as well as one of the two famous Phoenician sea snails or from woad, but nearly all indigo dye produced today for food or textile is synthetic. It is possible to have an allergic to Blue No. 2.

Green No. 3

Green No. 3, or Fast Green FCF, can be used for tinned green peas and other vegetables, jellies, sauces, fish, desserts, and dry bakery mixes at level of up to 100 mg/kg. Fast Green FCF produces a sea green. Green No. 3 is poorly absorbed by the intestines.

   light green peas

Red No. 40

Red No. 40 was introduced as a replacement for Red No. 2 because Red No. 2, or Amaranth, was a suspected carcinogenic. It has the appearance of a dark red powder. Red No. 40 can be found in sweets, drinks and condiments, medications, and cosmetics. Despite the popular misconception, Allura Red AC is not derived from the cochineal insect. Red AC is derived from coal tar. Carmine (or Crimson Lake, Natural Red 4), however, is the coloring extracted from dried cochineal beetles. It is banned in Denmark, Belgium, France, Germany, Switzerland, Sweden, and Austria. It was once feared as a carcinogenic, but this has since been disproved. It has, however, caused allergic reactions in people as well as hyperactivity in children.

   dark red M&Ms

Red No. 3

bright red cherries   

Also known as Erythrosine, Red No. 3 is a cherry-pink coal tar-based food dye. It is also used in printing inks, as a biological stain, a dental plaque disclosing agent and a radiopaque medium. It is used in cherries, canned fruit, custard mix, sweets, baked goods, and snack foods. It can cause sensitivity to light and learning difficulties, can increase thyroid hormone levels and lead to hyperthyroidism, and was shown to cause thyroid cancer in rats in a study in 1990.

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Yellow No. 5

Yellow No. 5, or Tartrazine, is used for yellow coloring, but can also be used with Brilliant Blue FCF or Green S to produce various green shades. Use of tartrazine is banned in Norway and was banned in Austria and Germany, before European Parliament lifted the ban. Yellow No. 5 can be found in soft drinks, instant puddings, flavored chips (Doritos, etc), cake mixes, custard powder, soups, sauces, kool-aid, ice cream, ice lollies, candy, chewing gum, marzipan, jam, jelly, marmalade, mustard, horseradish, yogurt, noodles, pickles and other pickled products, certain brands of fruit squash, fruit cordial, chips, tim tams, and many convenience foods together with glycerin, lemon and honey products.

   yellow number 5 soda

Most famously is the now-termed urban legend that ingesting Yellow No. 5, or, more specifically, Mountain Dew, would lower a man's sperm count and shrink his testicles, possibly rendering him sterile. Tartrazine, however, does produce the most common allergic react, especially among those with an aspirin intolerance and ashtma. Some research has linked Yellow No. 5 to early childhood Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder and hyperactivity. It is banned in Austria and Norway.

Yellow No. 6

orange juice in a pitcher   

Also known as Sunset Yellow FCF, this dye is an orange coal tar-based food dye found in orange squash, orange jelly, marzipan, Swiss roll, apricot jam, citrus marmalade, lemon curd, fortune cookies, sweets, hot chocolate mix and packet soups, trifle mix, breadcrumbs and cheese sauce mix and soft drinks. It is the color most prominently seen in DayQuil. It is capable of causing allergic reactions such as abdominal pain, hyperactivity, hives, nasal congestion, and bronchoconstriction, as well as kidney tumours, chromosomal damage, and distaste for food.

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What's a Blue Lake 1?

The difference between dyes and lakes are in their solubility. Dyes will dissolve in water, but not oil while lakes are the opposite. Lakes 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, and shampoos.

A Rainbow of Natural & Synthetic Food Colors

While looking up the 7 major colors above we stumbled across a commercial website for a manufacturer of food colors and dyes, Rung International. This company makes and sells a wide range of colors... Some of the synthetic and natural colors are included below:

Synthetic Food Colors

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Synthetic Food Colors
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Synthetic Food Colors
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Synthetic Food Colors
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Synthetic Food Colors
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Synthetic Food Colors
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Synthetic Food Colors
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Synthetic Food Colors
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Synthetic Food Colors
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Synthetic Food Colors
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Synthetic Food Colors
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Synthetic Food Colors
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Synthetic Food Colors
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Synthetic Food Colors
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Synthetic Food Colors
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Synthetic Food Colors
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Synthetic Food Colors

Natural Food Colors

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Natural Food Colors
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Natural Food Colors
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Natural Food Colors
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Natural Food Colors
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Natural Food Colors
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Natural Food Colors
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Natural Food Colors
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Natural Food Colors
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Natural Food Colors
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38 Comments
Showing 1 - 30 of 38 Comments

Dia

Coal tar... mmmmmm.

:p

lizcrimson

very interesting. i've always loved blue food (like alpen!). i used to buy blue slushes whenever i could just because they were blue, not for the berry taste. now i know i only really liked the coal tar!

we had a buffet in a college art class where everyone had to bring food coloured different than its natural colour. it was really fun, and some people wouldn't eat the wierdly coloured stuff - like the green mac and cheese...

that same professor made a jello mold of his own face and brought that for the buffet. that was strange, too - eating the professor's jiggly face!

tenkerasu

OH. MY. GAWD. i'm scared to death right now. you mean...all the stuff i've eaten as a kid...is freaking coal tar?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?! *rocks back and forth* okay, yeah, NOW i'm paranoid! and i thought i was bad before this! oh man... wtf...ftfl... *passes out*

ruecian

@tenkerasu -- The FDA does approve them, so they're not deadly, but also consider what else you eat.

indiethought

i've found that i like yellow M&Ms better than the other colors. Guess it's the yellow coal tar! How very interesting! :D

ruecian

@indiethought -- It certainly made me ask, "... what am I eating?"

Dia

@liz -- Heh. That sounds like the best class picnic ever. :)

lizcrimson

hey, there's wax in chocolate, and in the middle of oreos...

in the candy - cow tails - one of the ingredients listed for the filling is mashed potatoes. some of my students saw that and quit eating them. like mashed potatoes is a bad thing?

@Dia -- it was a great party!

lizcrimson

LOVE that top photo, rue!

bijouloveshues

wow... I'm so glad mom was militant about the no-preservatives/ artifical colours thing...

proves once again that nature produces the best colours :)

Wombat

yeah, this really did make me think of all the other things I must be eating. But it's so hard to avoid every "unhealthy" thing.

Life's short, eat something blue. XD

zmikez

In the US, coal tar has been "Grand-fathered" into a lot of products. One that has come to the surface lately is almost every brand of Dandruff shampoo and they don't have to list it on their ingredients list even though it is the main active ingredient. ...read the second paragraph on 'Blue No.1'!

dklimke

So are any American companies still using Crimson Lake? Just wanna know where the beetles are so i can avoid them

ruecian

@dklimke -- You can probably still find it, but most likely under its synonymous name of Carmine.

foodpolice

Yes...the FDA approves ONLY good things...like Vioxx, Bextra, drug-coated stents...and other things that kill people...after all, they're only looking out for us, right?

ruecian

@foodpolice - Oh, of course. I used to be worried that they didn't take long enough to test something before approving it, but now I know that they're just that good. They have a keen sixth sense when it comes to products that kill, and they gave these guys the nod. Sweettarts, Vioxx, and Mountain Dew it is.

lulusartshack

It's totally true about associating food with color. I once bought a couple of croquettes from a cafe, I was all excited about them, and when I took a bite, despite the fact that they were delicious, I stopped eating them for a second. Instead of the usual, obviously artificial pink, they were brown and a part of my brain was going "no! don't eat that!"

@foodpolice- I'm not sure I understand the drug-coated stents killing people. From what I know they're about the same as the bare metal stents.

sonja.rose

@ licrimson..... I've also always loved blue things, especially blue slushies, blue m&ms, blue jelly snakes, blue powerade etc, not really caring what the actual flavour is behind them. Is a blue slushie really meant to be "berry"??? I thought it was 'blue" aka "random sugar rots your teeth" flavour, like powerade!

I reallly dislike gin, but I once bought a Bombay Sapphire G&T because I thought it might be the gin that was blue, not the bottle. I was sadly disappointed.... Next time I'll go for Blue Curacao instead!

OogeyBoogey

The food coloring article is nice information, but needs editing for readability. Consider asking a well-read friend for help before you publish. In nearly every instance of the adjective carcinogenic, you should use the noun: 1) "because it is a carcinogenic" should read "because it is a carcinogen" 2) "It is possible to have an allergic to Blue No. 2." should read "It is possible to have an allergy to Blue No. 2." 3) "Amaranth, was a suspected carcinogenic." should read "Amaranth, was a suspected carcinogen." 4) "It was once feared as a carcinogenic" should read "It was once feared as a carcinogen" 5) "Most famously" should read "Most famous" 6) "the most common allergic react" should read "the most common allergic reaction" 7) "an aspirin intolerance and ashtma" implied that one would need to have both of these problems to have an allergy to Yellow No. 5... this should instead read "an aspirin intolerance OR ASTHMA" (capital letters are for emphasis only -- asthma was also misspelled.) Best regards

mreece

thanks!!!

that was really interesting

dennisthemenace

Just goes to show that the best thing to do with food colouring is add some vinegar and water and use it to dye silk and wool. Want details? Just send me a love note. ;0)

webseitler

And this is why I shop at Trader Joe's...

vientoritmico

oh, i hate those dyed cherries with a passion.

speedyeoh

Colour is very important to increase the appetite for your customer in a restaurant. It will be a strategy in your marketing to create a beautiful menu for a restaurant. For more about the colour marketing I have explain more at my colour marketing topics in my blog

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