Colours are a type of additive and follow the rules on additives. If certain colours are used in food they must be accompanied by specific warnings – **see slide 71.
The Regulations apply to all foods but make specific requirements for certain foods, such as rice, tea, coffee, fresh vegetables, meat, fish and shellfish, which cannot be directly coloured with artificial colours. Rice is only able to contain colour introduced by ingredients added to it, such as seasonings.
Look out for coloured rice in take-aways and restaurants.
The use of these colours in food is controlled because excessive consumption has been linked to allergic reactions and sickness.
Of particular relevance to restaurant and takeaway meals are the additives used that relate to sauces, seasonings (for example – curry powder, tandoori), pickles, relishes, chutney, piccalilli, etc. In these cases, only a combined total of 500 mg/kg of the following permitted colours is allowed
- E 100 – Curcumin
- E 102 – Tartrazine
- E 120 – Cochineal, Carminic acid, Carmine
- E 122 – Azorubine, Carmoisine
- E 129 – Allura Red AC
- E 131 – Patent Blue V
- E 132 – Indigotine, Indigo carmine
- E 133 – Brilliant Blue FCF
- E 142 – Green S
- E 151 – Brilliant Black BN, Black PN
- E 155 – Brown HT
- E 160d – Lycopene (ML = 50 mg/kg, excluding tomato-based sauces)
- E 160e – Beta-apo-8′-carontenal (C30)
- E 160f – Ethyl ester of beta-apo-8′-carotenic acid (C30) (there is no reference to this on the additives database)
- E 161b – Lutein
The following colours are even more strictly regulated, with maximum limits in sauces as follows:
- E 160d – Lycopene: 50 mg/kg and not permitted in tomato-based sauces
- E 104 – Quinoline Yellow: 20 mg/kg and not permitted in tomato-based sauces
- E 110 – Sunset Yellow FCF / Orange Yellow S: 30 mg/kg, pickles and piccalilli only
The maximum permitted amounts of these three colours is different in other types of food – for example, Quinoline Yellow is the only one of the three that is allowed to be used in seasonings, with a limit of 10 mg/kg.
For full details of which additives can be used, in which foods and in what amounts, please visit the European Food Additives database (the easiest way to search is to click on ‘categories’ from the top right toolbar and select the appropriate category from the drop-down list).