The Use of Foods as Coloring Ingredients for Processed Foods in the USA, EU, China, Russia, & Brazil

The addition of color to foods can have a significant effect on foods’ appeal by providing a new color blend or helping to return color that is lost during food processing. Different countries throughout the world have unique regulations regarding the coloring of foods, even when utilizing foods with coloring properties. A coloring food is a food that is able to provide color to a finished product, such as carrot or cherry juice, or tomato concentrates. The European Commission provided guidelines in November 2013 on determining if an ingredient added to food can be considered a coloring food (i.e., a food with coloring properties), or a food additive to provide color. If an extract of a food is not considered to be a coloring food but a food color (i.e., additive), the extract has to be compliant with of the criteria in the relevant European Commission regulation (EC No 1333/2008). In the United States, any new substance added to food, specifically to add color is considered a color additive, and must be approved through the Color Additive Petition process, which is similar to Russian and Chinese regulations which define coloring agents as food additives. Foods that add their own natural color, such as cherries or orange juice which are not added deliberately for color are not considered color additives in the US.

The United States does have regulations for the use of vegetable (21 CFR §73.260) or fruit (21 CFR §73.250) juices as colors. However, in both China and Russia, the use of coloring foods must be submitted to the government and evaluated on a case-by-case basis. The Brazilian government does not have specific guidance on coloring foods, but has indicated that edible fruit and vegetable concentrates must be stated on the label as concentrates and not specified as an ingredient to impart color, although “natural coloring” ingredients are defined in the regulations as “a dye obtained from plant or possibly animal, whose coloring principle has been isolated with the use of a technical process” (Annex III of the Resolucao, 04/1988). In Brazil, the Agencia Nacional de Vigilancia Sanitaria (ANVISA) recognized edible fruit, vegetable and Spirulina concentrates as foods, and must be declared in the ingredients’ list as a concentrate and not a “color-imparting” ingredient. While many regulations are enforced throughout the world, most regulatory bodies provide well-defined lists of ingredients that may be utilized as articles to impart color. Strictly following these lists should remove a potential barrier to selling your product in the global marketplace.

Article segment from Global Focus: Food Colours vs Colouring Foods in the USA, EU, China, Russia and Brazil in Agro Food Hi Tech, published in Volume 25(3) April/May 2014. Download the full PDF here.