Food grade dyes and pigments are one of the food industry's most powerful tools for convincing customers to buy their products. People eat with their eyes first. Food that is not vibrantly colored has a harder time selling next to food that pops with reds, greens, yellows, and violets. This is why food grade dyes are in just about everything one can buy at the grocery store.
Because of their near-ubiquitous usage, the expectation is that any food product you take to market is going to have food grade dye in it. In fact, not using a food grade coloring is a poor business decision because your customers are not going to buy your product if it does not look appetizing. When considering food grade dyes and pigments, you have two choices: natural food grade dyes and synthetic food grade dyes.
Natural alternatives include beet juice (it stains food like it stains your hands), turmeric, saffron, and annatto (made from the achiote seed). In the United States, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates synthetic food grade pigments via the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act that recognizes seven classes of food safe dyes and pigments, from Brilliant Blue to Allura Red. In Europe, the European Union recognizes E numbers for their food products. The Codex Alimentarius Commission, of which the FDA is a member, adopted the E numbering system for all food additives.
If you are taking a food product to market, consider how food grade dyes and pigments enhance the appeal of the following foods.
- Salmon – food grade pigments make it more red
- Oranges – food safe dyes make them more orange
- Ground beef – food safe pigments remove the grayish color associated with spoilage
- Cereals – edible dyes make them more kid friendly
- Fun products – food grade colors make green and purple ketchup
Look online for suppliers of food grade dyesIf you want to buy food grade dyes in bulk, you are not going to be able to go to the grocery store. Some specialty stores may have large quantities of food grade dyes and pigments, but if you want your food product to be on a large number of store shelves, you need to find a wholesaler.
Make sure the food safe dyes you are using are actually food safeTroubling studies are being released that link many food grade dyes to behavioral disorders such as ADHD and ADD. One of the largest culprits is the red food dye used in children's cereals.
United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) or researching the international Codex Committee on Food Additives (CCFA) to see if the USDA is going to ban those additives. If you want general information about food grade dyes and pigments, visit the Food Technology and Biotechnology (FTB) website. It features many scholarly articles on the topic.
Consider natural alternatives to synthetic food grade pigments and dyesIf you need to use a red (or any other color) food safe pigment, you would do well to consider natural alternatives. The good news is that there is a greater push for natural alternatives over synthetic food grade dyes and pigments; this has led to their greater availability online. Also, due to a greater concern over healthy food products and the fact that more consumers are scrutinizing food labels, using natural food grade coloring is a smart business decision.
The Complete Book on Natural Dyes and Pigments at NIIR Project Consultancy Services (NPCS). You can purchase natural food dyes and pigments from Kalsec, Inc.
- Food safe pigments help with food identity. We expect cherries to be red, carrots to be orange, etc., but the cooking process often breaks down the pigments that color food.
- Some food grade coloring practices can destroy the nutritional value of food. Avoid these whenever possible.
- Not all food grade dyes and pigments are digestible by humans. This can cause human waste to change colors. If you want consumers to continue eating your foods, avoid these food safe pigments whenever possible.