Food Color natural colorings
August 17 2015 by
Ray Sahelian, M.D.

Since many artificial colors have potential health problems, natural food colors are becoming more popular. Betanin, bixin, chlorophyll, -carotene, lycopene and cyanidin-3-O-glucoside, alone and in combination, are inhibitors of lipid peroxidation, cyclooxygenase enzymes and human tumor cell proliferation. The pigments are isolated from beetroot, annetto seeds, spinach, carrot, tomatoes and cherries, respectively. For information on food additives.

Beetroot food color
Beetroot contains water-soluble betacyanins such as betanin, which contribute to the red color, and has been used as a traditional folk medicine and natural food color.

Annetto seeds color
Annetto seeds have a natural color in the carotenoid family called bixin.

Red pepper
J Food Sci Technol. 2015. Red pepper (Capsicum annuum) carotenoids as a source of natural food colors: analysis and stability-a review. Carotenoids are increasingly drawing the attention of researchers as a major natural food color due to their inherent nutritional characteristics and the implicated possible role in prevention and protection against degenerative diseases. In this report, we review the role of red pepper as a source for natural carotenoids. The composition of the carotenoids in red pepper and the application of different methodologies for their analysis were discussed in this report. The stability of red pepper carotenoids during post-harvest processing and storage is also reviewed. This review highlights the potential of red pepper carotenoids as a source of natural food colors and also discusses the need for a standardized approach for the analysis and reporting of composition of carotenoids in plant products and designing model systems for stability studies.

Synthetic food colors
Food colorings -- sunset yellow (E110), found in fruity drinks; carmoisine (E122), a red coloring often added to jams; ponceau 4R (E124), a red food coloring; tartrazine (E102), found in lollipops and carbonated drinks; quinoline yellow (E104), a food coloring; and allura red AC (E129), and orange-red food dye.

Red 2G (E128) dye
2007 - Britain's Food Standards Agency (FSA) has asked food producers to stop using a food coloring used in sausages and burgers.  The dye, Red 2G (E128) may cause cancer in animals. Laboratory tests carried out by the European Food Safety Authority showed Red 2G (E128) dye damages the genetic material in cells and cause cancer in animals.

Toxicol Lett. 2013. Sunset yellow FCF, a permitted food dye, alters functional responses of splenocytes at non-cytotoxic dose. Sunset yellow FCF (SY), a permitted food color, is extensively used in various food preparations and quite often exceeds the permissible levels (100-200 mg/kg). Several toxicity studies on SY are reported, however immunomodulatory properties have not been explored yet. To investigate the immunotoxic properties of SY, splenocytes were isolated, cultured and subjected to mitogen stimulated proliferation assay (lipopolysaccharide, LPS or concanavalin A, Con A), mixed lymphocyte reaction (MLR) assay, immunophenotypic analysis of cell surface receptor expression and assay for cytokines release in the culture supernatants were performed in the presence of SY. Since SY did not exhibit any cytotoxicity up to 250 μg/ml, this dose was used for further studies. It was observed that SY (250 μg/ml) significantly (p<0.05) suppressed the mitogen induced proliferation of splenocytes and MLR response. Further, immunophenotypic analysis revealed that SY alters the relative expression of CD3e/CD4/CD8 in T cells and CD19 in B-cells. Consistent with the suppression of T-cell and B-cell responses and altered surface receptor expression, SY also lowered the expression of IL2, IL4, IL6, IL-17, IFN-γ and TNF-α cytokines. These results suggest that non-cytotoxic dose of SY may have immunomodulatory effects.