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EU/USA - Food color and coloring food: quality, differentiation and regulatory requirements

European Union

Nov 13, 2023

Throughout human history, food color has been a key trait of sensory quality evaluation. With the advent of processed food, food coloring has gained even more importance. Consumers believe food coloring should be as natural as possible; however, there is no universally accepted standard regarding its “naturalness.” Furthermore, “natural” does not necessarily mean “edible.” There are various options for coloring food, ranging from the addition of intensely colored foodstuffs to coloration by synthetic (artificial) dyes. The use of “coloring foods” offers the most natural way to color food. Legislation on the coloring and subsequent labeling of food is fundamentally different in the European Union and the United States. In the European Union, “coloring foods” are clearly differentiated from food additives (colors). The distinction is created by defining a borderline between selective and nonselective extraction through the calculation of enrichment factors and a threshold value. In contrast, according to US regulations, it does not matter whether the coloring material represents a food or not. In this chapter, fundamentals are presented for understanding EU and US legislation as well as that of China, India, Japan, and Thailand, including detailed examples. In addition, the regulatory framework in Codex Alimentarius and the limitations of the present regulations regarding consumers’ expectations and future perspectives are discussed.


Author(s):  Fallah, S and Stich, E.

Published in: Series in Food Science, Technology and Nutrition, Handbook on Natural Pigments in Food and Beverages

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