Monday, 30 September 2013

The ABCs - C Is For Colouring (Part 1)

The colouring that I am writing about is food colouring.

Food colouring is also known as colour additive.

What Food Colouring Is

Food colouring adds/changes colours of food or drink when added. They come in many forms such as liquids, powders, gels and pastes.

Food colouring is used widely in commercial food production. Many use it in domestic cooking too. Not only is food colouring used in food, it is also used in non-food applications such as cosmetics, pharmaceutical, home craft projects and medical devices.

Why Food Colouring Is Used

1. As consumers connect colours to flavours, the use of food colouring in food will influence the perceived flavour, thus enhancing the 'feel-good-factor' which will indirectly cause them to buy the food again.

2. Colours will fade due to exposure to light, air, temperature extremes, moisture and storage conditions. Food colouring will rectify it.

3. For added colour effects. (Such as Heinz's GREEN ketchup!)

4. To enhance existing colours.

5. To make 'colourless' food attractive and 'fun'.


In US, approved synthetic food dyes are given FD&C numbers.

1. FD&C Blue No.1

The common name for this colouring is Brilliant Blue FCF or Blue 1. It is a colourant for food and also other substances.

In the EU, it is labeled under the E numbers as E133.

This synthetic food colouring is formed from aromatic hydrocarbons from petroleum. Its appearance is of a reddish-blue colour.

This colour is often found in ice-cream, canned processed peas, packet soups, bottled food colourings, icings, ice pops, blue raspberry flavoured products, dairy products, sweets and drinks (liqueur blue curaçao).

It is also used in soaps, shampoos, mouthwash and other hygiene/cosmetics products.

This colouring was previously banned in Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland. But today it has been certified as a safe food additive in the EU and is legal in most of the countries.

Be aware that it is capable of inducing allergic reactions in individuals who have pre-existing asthma.

2. FD&C Blue No.2

This is also known as indigo carmine. It is approved for use as a food colorant in the US. In the EU is labeled as E number E132.

This colouring is used as a dye in manufacturing capsules. In obstetrics, this dye is used to detect amniotic fluid leaks. In surgery, intravenous indigo carmine is used to highlight the urinary tract to check if there are any leaks. This dye can cause a very dangerous rise in blood pressure for some people.

Indigo carmine has been known to be an irritant to the skin and eyes. It is also harmful to the respiratory tract if inhaled.

3. FD&C Green No.3

This food colouring is also known as Food Green 3, Green 1724, Solid Green FCF or C.I. 42053. It is labeled as E number E143.

This food colouring was used as a replacement for the Light Green SF yellowish in Masson's trichrome (which is histomy - a study on the microscopic anatomy of cells/tissues of plants and animals).

This food colouring is prohibited in the EU though in the US, it is one of the FDA approved food dyes. It is used for tinned green peas, jellies, sauces, fish, desserts and dry bakery mixes (permitted to 100mg/kg).

In experimental animals, this food colouring has been found to cause tumours and mutative effects. It also causes eye, skin, digestive tract and respiratory tract irritation.

4. FD&C Red No.40

This is an azo dye which is known by many other names such as Allura Red, Food Red 17, C.I. 16035, 2-naphthalenesulfonic acid, and the E number E129.

This was introduced in order to replace the amaranth dye which was banned.

Originally, this was manufactured from coal tar. But today, it is mostly made from petroleum. Many believe that FD&C Red No.40 is derived from the female cochineal insect. That is not true. The food colouring carmine is from the female cochineal insect.

A research was conducted in 2007 on the effects of additives and food colouring on children's behaviour. E129 was one of the colours. And it was found that children had an increase in hyperactivity and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder when they consumed these chemicals (E129 included).

In the US, FD&C Red 40 is approved by the FDA for use in cosmetics, drugs and food. This dye is also used in some tattoo inks. It is also used widely in soft drinks (strawberry soft drink), children's medication (cough syrups) and cotton candy. This is the most commonly and widely used red dye in the US alone.

In the Europe, FD&C Red 40 is not recommended for children consumption. It is banned in Denmark, Belgium, France and Switzerland.

This azo dye is also less tolerated by aspirin intolerant people and asthmatics. People with skin sensitivities should also be careful with this azo dye.

(to be continued...)


  1. Isn't it amazing these government approve the poisoning of people with these additives. Just amazing...