Colors Exempt from Certification

Colors that are exempt from certification include pigments derived from natural sources of vegetable, mineral or animal origin. There are 36 color additives in this group approved for use in food (21 CFR 73, Subpart A).

Examples of exempt colors include annatto extract (yellow), dehydrated beets (bluish-red to brown), caramel (yellow to tan), beta-carotene (yellow to orange) and grape skin extract (red, green).

Health Concerns with Colors

Despite all the advantages of synthetic dyes mentioned before, consumers are today more and more concerned about health, carefully read the list of ingredients on food labels and many of them do not appreciate the presence of chemicals in food.

The more and more increasing consumer trend to purchase foods with a “clean label" the technological advances and the research of new sources from which retrieve new pigments, recently have contributed to a significant increase of the natural dyes market despite their drawbacks as poor resistance to heat, sensitivity to pH values and light instability. Clearly, to replace synthetic colors by natural ones it is necessary to consider all these drawback points from the step of initial formulation of the product to the moment of its shelf life definition.

In 2015, the trend to eat “natural” products containing natural ingredients that are familiar to the consumer increased strongly. Also, the growing push for “clean-label” products has led some of the most recognizable brands in Europe and in the United States to move away from synthetic colorants in favor of natural alternatives. This issue is heavily focused in products for children because their parents are very careful about what they buy for them.

The desire to have a fresh product, mildly treated and with “clean natural label” is likely to lead to more options in the future with further advancement of knowledge in the field of new technologies and /or new ingredients.

Even today, using technologies such as microencapsulation or nanotechnology, it is possible to obtain a product with satisfactory appearance and with longer shelf-life. Examples of new proposals that overcome some defects of natural dyes follow:

  • Color-rich crystallineform of anthocyanin colors (pinks and purples shades) produced by San Joaquin Valley Concentrates (Fresno, CA) with a help of a new drying process. The crystals are of the same shade and stability as equivalent liquid colors. Their unique structure and composition prevent clumping, provide fast solubility in water, and enable usage rates reportedly lower than those of liquid colors. They deliver fewer calories compared with other fruit and vegetable juices for color. Currently available OU crystal colors include Red Grape, Purple Grape, Purple Carrot, Zinfandel Shade, Merlot Shade, and Rose Shade.
  • SternRed virgin palm oil (reds, oranges, and yellows) are produced by SternChemie (Hamburg, Germany) at processing temperatures so low that the palm fruit's crude, red-orange color is still maintained. And restrictions on heat do more than preserve color: SternRed palm oil retains its vitamin E complexes and carotenoids, which act not just as colorants but as antioxidants for extending product shelf life. SternRed is best suited for fried foods, baked goods, margarines, dressings, and mayos. When used in deep-frying, it imparts a golden yellow. This declaration-friendly ingredient can be listed as vegetable oil.
  • Extract of phycocyanin pigment from blue-green spirulina (Anthrospira platensis): Blue. Blue is a tough find in the natural colors market. It is already permitted in EU.
  • • Huang at al. (2010) recently reported use of nanoemulsions for solubilization of carotenoids such as lycopene, p-carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin. They also reported that these formulations may help in improving bioavailability.
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