A color additive is any die, pigment, or substance that imparts color when added or applied to a food, drug, cosmetic, or human body. The term “FD&C” is applied to ‘food color additive’ approved by the FDA for food, drug and cosmetic usage, “D&C” is used for approved ‘drug and cosmetic coloring agents’, and “external D&C” is granted to approved ‘color additive applied externally.’ The synthetic coloring agents are assigned FD&C classifications by initials, the shade and a number, for example, FD&C Red#40, and FD&C Yellow #5.
Coloring agents are added to foods because of the sensory appeal they provide, for the purpose of making processed foods look more appetizing. For example, colors are used in baked products, candies, dairy products such as butter, margarine and ice cream, gelatin desserts, jams and jellies in order to improve their appearance. It has been said that people “eat with their eyes” as well as their plates.
There are thousands of foods that use colors to maker them looks appetizing and attractive. The primary reasons for adding coloring agents include the following:
- Offsetting color loss due to exposure to air, light, moisture and storage
- To correct natural variations in color or enhance color
- To provide visual appeal to wholesome and nutritious foods
- To provide color to foods that would otherwise be colorless, including “fun foods” and special foods for various holidays
Pigment may be derived from natural sources such as plant, mineral or animal sources primarily the former. Some of the same ingredients added to foods for their health benefits, also offer “natural” coloring. These includes anthocyanins, carotenoids, chlorophylls, foods such as beets (betalains), cabbage, tomatoes (lycopene), and number of other flowers, fruits and vegetables.
Synthetic coloring agents are generally less expensive than the natural colorants, are more intense, and have better coloring power, uniformity, and stability when exposed to environmental conditions such as heat and light. They may be water soluble or made water insoluble by the addition of aluminum hydroxide. Only small quantities of granules, a paste, a power or solution are needed in foods to achieve the desired color effects.
Coloring Agents as Food Additive