Food dye is a substance that is added to food to give it a specific color. Certified color additives for food include Blue No.1, Blue No.2, Green No.3, Red No.3, Red No.40, Yellow No.5, Yellow No.6, Orange B and Citrus Red No.2. Orange B and Citrus Red No.2 are restricted by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to specific uses. Citrus Red No.2 can only be used on the skin of oranges and Orange B can only be used in hot dog or sausage castings or surfaces.
To protect the public’s health, man-made food color additives must be certified. There are two types of certified additives for foods: dyes and lakes. Dyes are typically manufactured as granules, powders and liquids, and they dissolve in water. Dyes are often used to color beverages, pet food and dairy products. An insoluble form of a dye is a lake. Lakes are a more stable color additive and are often used to color hard candy, chewing gum or cake mixes.
Is it safe?
In the United States, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is the agency that regulates color additives. Permitted colors are classified as “exempt from certification” or "certifiable." Color additives made from natural substances, such as vegetables, minerals, animals or man-made counterparts of the derivatives, are classified as "exempt from certification." Safety standard tests are applied to both the “exempt from certification” and "certifiable" color additives. According to the United States Food and Drug Administration, there are now nine "certifiable" color additives.
Food manufacturers add food dyes to offset color loss due to storage conditions or exposure to light. They are also added to correct a product's variations of color and to enhance the overall appearance, making it more appealing to consumers. Home chefs can add coloring to gravy to give it a dark, rich appearance, and children use food dyes to color Easter eggs. Food dyes are also used in the home to color cake frosting and desserts.
Food is judged by both its appearance and taste. Early civilizations understood this, and even the ancient Romans colored their food to improve its visual appeal. As early as the 1300s, butter was colored to give it its yellow hue. Saffron, a spice derived from a flower, was a popular substance used to add yellow color to food. Other food colorings used by earlier civilizations included beets, spinach and pomegranates.