Natural versus Synthetic Colors

DDW offers a wide variety of natural alternatives to synthetic colour additives.

Alternatives to Synthetics

There have been worries about the toxicity of some Azo dyes for at least 50 years, and many are no longer approved for use in foods in Europe, or are subject to new Acceptable Daily Intakes, or ADIs. As recently as 2007 the EU suspended the use of red dye 2 G in response to its breakdown to aniline, which is a known carcinogen.

The European Food Safety Authority or EFSA, is currently reviewing the safety of all European food additives, and as a matter of priority they were asked by the European commission to review, first, the Southampton Six colours, and then followed by the other colours and other food additives. EFSA has advised the commission in parliament to reduce the acceptable daily intakes for three of the colours in question, of the Southampton Six: the quinoline yellow, the sunset yellow and ponceau 4r.

Although EFSA concluded that the South Hampton study did not substantiate a causal link between the hyperactivity and six colours, there are still consumer concerns over this relationship. The UK Food Standards Agency or FSA, which funded the Southampton study still decided that the findings were sufficiently worrying for it to call for a voluntary ban on the use of the Southampton Six colours in the UK food and drink industry.

In 2008, the European Parliament reacted to the findings of the South Hampton study by adding to a provision of new food additive regulations which came into force in 2010. The requirement that the synthetic colours in question here represented here be identified by the name or the E number followed by the phrase, “may have an adverse effect on activity and attention in children.” At the same time, it should be noted that many in the colour industry find the results of the Southampton study to be inconclusive, and an FDA panel recently voted against warning labels for synthetic colours in the USA. However, the panel did call for more studies to determine if there is a link between hyperactivity and these colours.

While not an outright ban on the use of these colours or requiring labeling in all these regions, it is certainly encourage manufacturers to consider replacing these colours, not only in Europe but in the United States and other countries as well.

As mentioned above, it is important to note that naturally derived food colours may not be as concentrated as artificial or synthetic (FD&C) colours. More colour must be used to achieve the same result, so there may be an impact on food or beverage flavour. Additionally, stability may vary.

DDW provides a wide variety of naturally derived alternatives to synthetic / FD&C food dyes. From carrots to beets to caramel to purple sweet potato, you can compare our entire product line here.

What’s the difference between “naturally derived” and “nature identical” food colouring?

“Naturally derived” colouring
1) sources from substance that occurs in nature. Its origin is natural – whether vegetal (plant), microbiological, animal or mineral.
2) results from traditional food preparation processes

“Nature identical” colouring
1) meets none of the above criteria.
2) through chemical synthesis, replicates molecular structure to become identical to the naturally derived colouring.

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