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29 09 2016
What to Know: Colours (Part 1)
Written by: Leopold

Colour is a powerful influencer. Of all sensations, colour (besides packaging, shape and texture) provides the first real impression that lasts the longest. Colour, which possess no tangible nutritional values, have no role in beverage and drink other than that to deceive. Colour can deceive our taste perception by producing taste differences; differentiations which do not exist. For example, try tasting a crystal clear (free of caramel colourant) cola – most believe it is less sweet and less tasteful. Colour simply is a critical driver behind consumer decision-making.

The purpose of the deceit is to ensure the consumer’s (perceived) enjoyment is maximised (or to become more appealing). For example, we often associate a particular flavour profile before tasting:

  • Red – e.g. Raspberry, Strawberry etc;
  • Orange and yellow: e.g. range of citrus flavours including Orange, Pineapple, Peach etc;
  • Green and blue: e.g. Mints (pepper- or spear-), Blueberry etc;
  • Brown: e.g. Cola, Tea etc.

Other reasons for adding colourant include:

  • Restorative: natural (not added) colourants destroyed by heat treatment;
  • Uniformity: to offset and standardise natural variations of natural colourant from the juice;
  • Quality: to arrest the deterioration of colourant resulting from storage (temperature, light and/ or microbial spoilage effects).

The use of colourants in food and beverage are carefully controlled under various national legislation. Regulatory bodies in the EU and USA regularly review, publish and regulate a permitted list of colourant for beverage and drink application. It is, therefore, important to investigate the permitted colourant list to ensure product compliance for goods to be manufactured in, or exported to, a specific country.

The use of colourants in beverage and drink (beyond perfecting the colour shade), as with all other ingredients, has to be carefully selected for its performance in the presence of acids, flavours, antioxidants and even preservatives. It is essential that at all stages of development that trials are completed to ensure the stability of the colour.

There are two basic classes in colourant: natural and synthetic (artificial). Natural colours are typically derived from vegetables, fruits, spices, plants, minerals and insects. Below are some of the colourants generally used in beverage and drink:

Source E Number CI Number Stability Other
Acid Heat Light
Annatto Seeds of annatto shrub (Bixa orellana) E160b 75120 P G M Can precipitate in acidic environment
Beta Carotene Carrots, algae, palm E160a 40800 G G P Can be synthesized
Carthamus Safflower thistle (Carthamus tinctorius L.) G G G
Curcumin Turmeric (rhizomes of Curcuma longa) E100 75300 G G P
Riboflavine E101 M G G AKA Vitamin B2 or lactoflavin
Riboflavine-5-phosphate E101a G G
Lutein Aztec marigold (Tagetes erecta) E161b 75135 G G G
Paprika Red pepper (Capsicum annum L.) E160c G G G
Lycopene Red tomatoes (Solanum lycopersicum L.) E160d 75125 G M M
Apocarotenal Citrus fruits and vegetables such as spinach E160e 40820 G G M
Canthaxanthin E161G 40850 M G
Red Sandalwood 75540 G G
Anthocyanins Grape skin, aronia, black carrot, elderberry, red cabbage, hibiscus E163d-f G G M Red in acidic solutions; bluer as pH increases
Carmine Cochineal insect (Dactilopius coccus) E120 75470 G G G Solubility decreases with lowering of pH; will precipitate below pH 3
Beet-Red Red beetroot (Beta vulgaris) E162 G P M Stable between pH 3.5 – 5;
Copper-chlorophyll E141 75810 G G G Modified natural extracts
Chlorophyll Green-leafed plants E140 75810 P P G
Caramel E150 G G
Quinoline Yellow E104 47005 G G G
Tartrazine E102 19140 G G G Yellow No. 5
Sunset Yellow E110 15985 G G G Yellow No. 6
Ponceau 4R E124 16255 G G G
Carmoisine E122 14720 G G G
Amaranth E123 16185 G G M
Allura Red E129 16035 G G G Red No. 40
Patent Blue V E131 42051 P G M
Indigo Carmine E132 73015 M P P Blue No. 2
Brilliant Blue FC E133 42090 G G G Blue No. 1
Food Green S E142 44090 G P
Brilliant Black BN E151 28440 M M G

* E Numbers: in accordance with guidelines of E.EC;

** CI Number Colour Index number allocated by the Society or Dyers & Colourists

It is important that colourants undergo application test, I.e. challenging conditions to ensure best performance and shade delivery throughout the product’s shelf life. Parameters such as shelf life, recipe, packaging and factors such as light, oxidation and acid stability are considered. For example, low pH can affect stability and reducing agents such as ascorbic acid may stabilize carotenoids but destabilize anthocyanins.

The statutory provisions for the use of food colourings and generally on food additives are laid down in Annex II of Regulation (EC) No. 1333/2008 and on flavourings and certain food ingredients with flavouring properties in the Regulation (EC) No. 1334/2008 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 16 December 2008.

The labeling of colours in food is regulated by the Directive 2000/13/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council on the approximation of the laws of the Member States relating to the labeling, presentation and advertising of foodstuffs.

The purity criteria of colour additives are regulated by the Commission Directive 2008/128/EC laying down specific purity criteria concerning colours for use in foodstuffs.

To be continued//…

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