Know Your Food Coloring

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Used in everything from soft drinks to canned vegetable, food coloring is pervasive in our society. Here's a short guide to the various food colors and whether or not you'll be that excited about seeing them in your food from now on..

Seven Major Food Color Additives

Today, because of chemical advances, not only are more vibrant and often superfluous colors available, but the usage of these chemicals is far more widespread. Often on a list of ingredients, one can find “for color” rather easily. However, until the Food and Drug Act of 1906, regulation for coloring was not in place for the United States of America. The current regulations allow for seven main dyeing agents.

Blue No. 1

First among the accepted list is Blue No. 1, or Brilliant Blue FCF, which creates — as you might have guessed — a medium blue shade. This coloring was actually banned in Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Norway, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland, but has since been let back into most of the countries under the European Union. Blue No. 1 can be found in some dairy products, sweets, and drinks. Blue No. 1 uses coal tar as one of its components. Because of the use of coal tar, many organizations and circles are speaking out and boycotting products using colors with coal tar because it is a carcinogenic in large quantities, known to cause tumors in lab rats.

It is also feared because only 50% of coal tar’s components have been identified. One thing that Blue No. 1 does not cause is hyperactivity, which was disproved after testing. Only 95% of the coloring is absorbed by the body’s gastro-intestinal lining.

Blue No. 2

Second is Blue No. 2, which is commonly added to tablets and capsules, but is also used in ice cream, sweets, baked goods, confectionery, and cookies. Also known as Indigotine, the color was extracted originally from several species of plant as well as one of the two famous Phoenician sea snails or from woad, but nearly all indigo dye produced today for food or textile is synthetic. It is possible to have an allergic reaction to Blue No. 2.

Green No. 3

Green No. 3, or Fast Green FCF, can be used for tinned green peas and other vegetables, jellies, sauces, fish, desserts, and dry bakery mixes at level of up to 100 mg/kg. Fast Green FCF produces a sea green. Green No. 3 is poorly absorbed by the intestines.

Red No. 40

Red No. 40 was introduced as a replacement for Red No. 2 because Red No. 2, or Amaranth, was a suspected carcinogenic. It has the appearance of a dark red powder. Red No. 40 can be found in sweets, drinks and condiments, medications, and cosmetics. Despite the popular misconception, Allura Red AC is not derived from the cochineal insect. Red AC is derived from coal tar. Carmine (or Crimson Lake, Natural Red 4), however, is the coloring extracted from dried cochineal beetles. It is banned in Denmark, Belgium, France, Germany, Switzerland, Sweden, and Austria. It was once feared as a carcinogenic, but this has since been disproved. It has, however, caused allergic reactions in people as well as hyperactivity in children.

Red No. 3

Also known as Erythrosine, Red No. 3 is a cherry-pink coal tar-based food dye. It is also used in printing inks, as a biological stain, a dental plaque disclosing agent and a radiopaque medium. It is used in cherries, canned fruit, custard mix, sweets, baked goods, and snack foods. It can cause sensitivity to light and learning difficulties, can increase thyroid hormone levels and lead to hyperthyroidism, and was shown to cause thyroid cancer in rats in a study in 1990.

Yellow No. 5

Yellow No. 5, or Tartrazine, is used for yellow coloring, but can also be used with Brilliant Blue FCF or Green S to produce various green shades. Use of tartrazine is banned in Norway and was banned in Austria and Germany, before European Parliament lifted the ban. Yellow No. 5 can be found in soft drinks, instant puddings, flavored chips (Doritos, etc), cake mixes, custard powder, soups, sauces, kool-aid, ice cream, ice lollies, candy, chewing gum, marzipan, jam, jelly, marmalade, mustard, horseradish, yogurt, noodles, pickles and other pickled products, certain brands of fruit squash, fruit cordial, chips, tim tams, and many convenience foods together with glycerin, lemon and honey products.

Yellow No. 6

Also known as Sunset Yellow FCF, this dye is an orange coal tar-based food dye found in orange squash, orange jelly, marzipan, Swiss roll, apricot jam, citrus marmalade, lemon curd, fortune cookies, sweets, hot chocolate mix and packet soups, trifle mix, breadcrumbs and cheese sauce mix and soft drinks. It is the color most prominently seen in DayQuil. It is capable of causing allergic reactions such as abdominal pain, hyperactivity, hives, nasal congestion, and bronchoconstriction, as well as kidney tumours, chromosomal damage, and distaste for food.



Blue No 2 & Red No 40 researched for its anti-cancer properties
Posted by P. Shahir on 2008-07-08 19:53:18
In my following reference to these two food coloring agents, also used in various condiments and sweets, I wish to underline my suspicion that the allergic reactions reported could vary due to impurities or possible slight variations in chemical composition due to various haphazard or uncontrolled production lines.
In other words, I feel that more research could be needed in order to understand better which production process gives a most reliable coloring agent - that could be further tested for purity and to identify possible causes or allergy, irritability or other side effects.
Generally simple natural processes contain least toxic biproducts and risky impurities - but we must remember that not all purified natural sources are necessarily healthy, until thoroughly understood. Fruit extract coloring agents appear to be with least side effects, but there could be a problem of shelf life from oxidation, exposure to light, bacteria or simple internal reactions due to sustained temperature.
Proper research on how to preserve and apply natural coloring agents, in my view, could be a step ahead in the future of turning foods and nutrition into cures for illnesses - not to speak of the psychological effect of nice colors - yet positive aromas have also been discovered to have a positive effect due to their abilities to kill off bacteria and viruses.

Recent efforts in the US State of Oregon can help pave the way towards understanding at least two specific coloring agents, Blue No 2 and Red No 40.

To my humble opinion, it is important to note that Red No 40 and Blue No 2 , as any other good coloring, can vary somewhat in chemical composition, and this may have made a huge difference for various Food and Drug administrations who may have been forced to ban various food additives due to their negative effects.
When trying to produce coloring agents, dyes or lakes, even uniform extraction and further manipulation can cause a huge difference. EVEN if a uniform chemical composition is acheived, molecules can vary in parts and on their 'molecular side chains' while retaining the desired color, but not necessarily with the same effect on human body.
Therefore, more investigation is needed to ensure a uniform natural product that could prove to be less 'allergenic' or allergy causing.
With this prologue explanation, I feel more comfortable to go on to my reference source :
It was through Foxnews Health section that I heard about these two coloring agents being presently being investigated for their anti-cancer properties.
Both coloring agents apparently have anti-cancer properties.
Blue No 2 and Red No 40 were tested in trout and found to counter a potent carcinogen toxin called Aflatoxin that causes liver cancer . Aflotoxin can be found in certain mouldy peanuts and pistachios.
Red No 40 may also counter a cancer causing compound called dibenzopyrene found in cigarettes.

You can read Foxnews Health section comments at,2933,354433,00.html
and their reference to the original article from an interview with Oregon State University Professor Gayle Orner that can be read at :

All this said and presented, I feel it is paramount to help change public culture towards preventing the constant pollution of the environment with POPs ( Persistant Organic Pollutants ) and other more transient pollutants that endanger the lives of unaware innocent people.
I have previously called to main UN members as the USA to help ensure that all petrochemical producers as well as oil exporting countries should take the lead on paying taxes in order to help contribute towards global health and security.
I feel it is unjust to expect the USA to automatically bear all burdens of tyranny, terror and drug cartel corruption horrors - but by advancing mutual understanding, people in the USA too will feel encouraged and more and more happy and enabled to help more where people need it most.
With the help of leading nations as the USA, a global economical system of taxes, subsidies and rewards could help encourage people who are devoted to good works and towards helping make industry and traffic more environment friendly and healthy.
Kind hearted educators and teachers must needs also be rewarded and encouraged so that people sooner realize that efforts towards healthy food and environment are essential, with a kindly mindst, to help towards preventing disease - instead of leaving problems to the a last moment act of desperation.
We can help color each others' lives with good kindly deeds, and when we change 'color of attitude' the world will become a more hopeful place for good people everywhere.

May the Almighty bless,
With best wishes, from P. Shahir


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