Things You Need to Know About Food Colouring


Fruits and vegetables are not the only bright and colourful foods that we eat every day. In fact most of the soft drinks, sweets, cereals, biscuits and ice creams that we consume daily are filled with food colours – both natural and artificial.

Some medications are also subjected to food colouring to easily recognize them or to enhance their taste. Here are some of the things that you need to know about food colouring and the effects it has on our bodies.

Basics of Food Colouring

Food colouring is the process of adding natural or synthetic colours to food to make the food more appealing and attractive. The food colour can be in the form of a liquid, paste, powder or even gel and is used in both commercial food production and domestic cooking. While natural colours are plant and insect-based, the artificial variants or the synthetic food colours are prepared chemically. These use of these colours is not just restricted to foods, but also used in other applications including medicines and cosmetics.

Purpose of Food Colouring

We all have a sensory impression for particular foods and associate certain colours with them. Food colouring is practised to influence this flavour ranging from sweets and candies to beverages. The aim of food additives is to stimulate the colour so that the consumer perceives it to be natural. However, colouring may also be used to help stay the natural colour longer and also to make the food more effective.

Benefits of Food Colouring

Some foods lose their natural colour due to exposure and artificial colours may be added to them to offset natural colour loss. The colour loss may also occur due to extreme temperatures and the moisture and storage conditions. Fun foods such as ice creams are also added with food colours to make unique flavourings and in medicines, they are used to identify the products based on their sight and sometimes even to identify their dosages.

How Are Food Colours Made?

Food colours may be natural and synthetic. Most of the natural colours are derived from plants and include carotenoids, chlorophyllin, betanin and anthocyanins and are extracted from vegetables and fruits. Examples include saffron flower, carrots and the like. Sometimes, they may also be extracted from insects such as the cochineal from which carmine or cochineal extract is made. Synthetic or artificial food colours are manufactured by chemical reactions using products like the petroleum jelly. They are listed on the ingredient’s list of a product and are generally identified by numbers.

Are Food Colours Safe To Eat?

As most of the food colours have to be approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (USFDA) and should be in accordance with their regulations, they are considered safe to eat. The FDA also specifies as what colour should be used in particular type of foods, the maximum amount that is allowed for use in a particular food and how the manufacturers should make it clear for the consumers to identify the colour additive on the label.