Food Color Additives…Safe?

I was persuring one of my favorite websites: About.com and came across this fabulous information by Peggy Trowbridge Filippone:

The FDA separates color additives for foods into two categories: Certifiable or Exempt from Certification. Cerfiable color additives are man-made. They must be tested for consumption safety and approved or certified by the FDA to be added to their list. There are nine certified color additives on the FDA approved list from which a multitude of colors can be mixed.

Certified color additives are known as dyes or lakes. Dyes are water-soluble and be used in beverages, dry mixes, baked goods, confections, dairy products, pet foods, and other products. Lakes will not dissolve in water and are more stable than dyes. They are best-used in foods containing fats and oils or those foods which do not contain a lot of moisture to dissolve dyes, such as tablets, cake mixes, hard candies, and chewing gum.

Name/Common Name Hue Common Food Uses
FD&C Blue No. 1
Brilliant Blue FCF
Bright blue Beverages, dairy products, dessert powders, jellies, confections, condiments, icings, syrups, extracts
FD&C Blue No. 2
Indigotine
Royal blue Baked goods, cereals, snack foods, ice cream, confections, cherries
FD&C Green No. 3
Fast Green FCF
Sea green Beverages, puddings, ice cream, sherbet, cherries, confections, baked goods, dairy products
FD&C Red No. 40
Allura Red AC
Orange-red Gelatins, puddings, dairy products, confections, beverages, condiments
FD&C Red No. 3
Erythrosine
Cherry red Cherries in fruit cocktail and in canned fruits for salads, confections, baked goods, dairy products, snack foods
FD&C Yellow No. 5
Tartrazine
Lemon yellow Custards, beverages, ice cream, confections, preserves, cereals
FD&C Yellow No. 6
Sunset Yellow
Orange Cereals, baked goods, snack foods, ice cream, beverages, dessert powders,

Exempt from Certification are those color additives derived from natural resources which are known to be safe to consume. These exempt additives come from such sources as vegetables, minerals, animals as well as man-made concoctions from natural foodstuffs. Normally man-made color additives have no flavor, while colors made from natural foods may well impart some unexpected flavor and color results. Keep this in mind if you plan on using homemade natural color additives at home.

Colors Exempt from Certification
Annatto extract Beta-carotene B-Apo-8′-carotenal*
Canthaxanthin Beet powder Carrot oil
Caramel color Cottonseed flour, toasted
partially defatted, cooked
Cochineal extract (carmine)
Fruit juice Ferrous gluconate* Grape skin extract* (enocianina)
Grape color extract* Paprika oleoresin Paprika
Saffron Riboflavin Turmeric
Titanium dioxide* Vegetable juice Turmeric oleoresin
*Restricted to specific uses

Food Color Laws and Regulations

The Food and Drug Act of 1906 in the United States established a voluntary certification program regulating the addition of colors to our foods in the US.

Mandatory certification came with the Federal Food, Drug & Cosmetic (FD&C) Act of 1938, regulating what color enhancers could be added to not only foods, but also drugs and cosmetics.

In 1960, the laws were further amended to require any color additive be on the Federal Food & Drug Administration (FDA) approved list. And, most recently, the Nutrition Labeling and Education Act of 1990 now requires that any certifiable color additive used in food must be listed in the ingredient statement by its common or usual name.

All new color additives must be tested and proved not to cause harmful effects when consumed, and are approved only by petition to the FDA to be added to the certified list. Once approved, the FDA may still restrict usage to only certain types of foods.

The United Kingdom also regulates food color additives in their territories.

The 27 countries comprising Member States of the European Union Community have also established regulations on color additives to foods with quite an extensive list. 

I know in today’s world we can’t really get away from food color additives, but how do you feel about the above information? Do you think the FDA is doing enough to regulate these chemicals?

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16 Responses

  1. Food dyes scare me (not that it stops me from eating them haha)- I did a project on them during my internship- the worst: cochineal extract. It’s made of dead bugs. Gross.

  2. i think they’re doing just enough to keep things relatively safe…but i don’t really think they’re doing enough. some of this stuff is just crazy!

  3. I don’t think the FDA does enough for us ever. They have their hands in so many pockets getting money that they can’t see what is really going on.

  4. The FDA is doing the minimum. There are so many children with allergies to them now and it keeps getting worse. I feel like they are unnecessary in so many products.

  5. I just wish these dyes weren’t in so many foods. So hard to avoid unless you literally make everything beyond from scratch. It is hard to say, but I’m guessing they aren’t doing enough. The FDA doesn’t exactly have the best track record for putting the public first!

  6. I think you absolutely CAN get away from food color additives. In fact, I can’t think of one thing I’ve eaten since maybe November that has had any. I really strive to keep them out of my life.

    • Yes, but the average American is not knowledgeable like you and as you have seen from movies like Food, Inc…they can’t afford it. Mainly it comes down to knowledge though…I mean even I was surprised at some of the things on this list and I work in the nutrition industry.

  7. I had a friend who was extremely allergic to red 40 dye. It was kind of disgusting to think of all the foods it is in!

  8. I don’t think the FDA ever does enough…but that’s my own cynicism. In this case, definitely not.

  9. Reading the list of what makes these additives up made me sick. I used to have faith in the FDA, but the more I read and learn, I do not. I can’t wait until you try those recipes that were sent to you, btw!!

  10. omg i just did a massive post on the FDA not regulating labels in food and that people like me who CAN DIE from ingesting our allergens are at the mercy of no regulation. yet they are all up in arms about kombucha. they need to pay more attn to keeping allergens out of what co’s “say” is gluten/dairy/soy/egg/shellfish/nut-free and then really ENFORCE it so i dont end up in the ER dead from analphalatic shock. Another reason i am high raw vegan and make 99% of everythng i eat. It’s the 1% that almost kills me. Sorry to rant, i am so passionate about this!

    here was my post and i could have gone off!!! even more 🙂
    http://www.loveveggiesandyoga.com/2010/07/hair-salon-hairstyles-reading-labels.html

    • I definitely think it is a problem and one that is likely to not be solved anytime soon. I think they have a lot going on and there is just too much to regulate AND most of the government is in bed with the food companies anyway…much like it was with the tobacco industry, Le sigh….

  11. this is super interesting. one of my professors this semester said that the FDA is nowhere near funded enough in order to attend to the things that they are charged with attending to. i could go about this for awhile but i see this as just one more reason to eat whole foods!

    • I totally believe that for sure! I think working for the FDA would be like running every day and never getting anywhere. I could not imagine a worse job especially for those who are actually trying to make a difference and do the right thing. You should do a post on it…it would be REALLY interesting!!

  12. No food dyes in the worlds highest quality antioxidant food know to man, research has shown that regular consumption can make a great difference to your health and so your whole life

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