This glossary is an abridged and modestly updated version of one originally published in Cereal Foods World (April 1995 Vol. 40. No. 4). It is reprinted here with the kind permission of CFW and that of the authors; Penny Martin, currently Principal Scientist, Mars Wrigley Confectionery and Dave Frick, currently Vice President, Viveri.

In any field, industry jargon rolls off the tongues of the experts, lending credibility to their position and, occasionally, intimidating the listener. It is certainly this way in the specialized arena of food colors—a unique mix of science, art, marketing, and law. Toss in an expanding global marketplace (with little commonality of regulations, nomenclature, or specifications), a rapidly changing domestic market driven by social media, marketing, and NGOs, and the typical food scientist is often at a loss to decipher the myriad terms.

With this in mind, we offer the following glossary. Rather than cover each topic in detail, we provide the reader with general information of global significance.

Obviously, our experience is greatest with the colorants permitted in the United States, so the reader may note less information on some of the lesser used colorants. However, because naturally sourced colors are typically more sensitive to the variables in food formulations and processes, additional information has been provided on these colorants.




(CI Natural Red 20, CI #75520/75530). Alkannet is a term used to describe an alcohol-extract of a root, Alkanna tinctoria Tausch and Anchusa tinctoria Lam from Southern Europe (Hendry, 1992). The red pigment found in these roots is not water-soluble; however, it is soluble in many organic solvents. Typical applications include alcohol-based products and some confectionery items (Hendry, 1992).

Allura Red

(FD&C Red #40, E129, CI Food Red 17, CI #16035, CAS #25956-17-6, chemical class: azo). An orangish red, water-soluble, synthetic dye. Very susceptible to degradation from reducing and oxidizing agents. Not stable to retort conditions. Fair light stability. In the USA, only FDA-certified batches are allowed and are officially named “FD&C Red #40.” Allura Red does not produce bright pinks or purples when blended with other colorants.

Alumina hydrate

(Al203•XH20) A white, odorless, tasteless, amorphous powder. The only approved substrate for food-grade lakes in the USA.


(E123, CI Food Red 9, CI #16185, CAS #915-67-3, chemical class: azo). A magenta-red, water-soluble, synthetic dye. Susceptible to degradation from reducing and oxidizing agents. Not stable to retort conditions. Fair light stability. One of the most commonly used synthetic dyes around the world. Formerly referred to as FD&C Red #2; but delisted in the USA in 1976 under questionable circumstances.

Annatto extract

(Cheese color, Bixin, Norbixin, Achiote, Rocou, E160(b), CI Natural Orange 4, CI #75120, CAS #1393-63-­1, chemical class: carotenoid). An extract of the seed from a shrub called Bixa orellana L. that grows in places such as South America, East Africa, and the Caribbean. Oil-and water-soluble forms (referred to as bixin and norbixin, respectively) of annatto extract exist depending on the method of extraction. Many countries specify the type of solvent systems permitted for extracting the pigments; classical extraction systems include edible oils and aqueous alkaline solutions. Annatto extracts exhibit yellow to golden yellow shades depending on the product form and application. Annatto is commonly used to give some cheddar cheese products (especially in the USA) a characteristic golden to orange shade. It is often used in the baking industry to give butter to egg shades, often in combination with turmeric or paprika oleoresin. Alkaline annatto extracts commonly precipitate in acidic media, which may or may not be used to an advantage. For example, in fruit preparations with pH below 4, annatto extract becomes reddish and insol­uble: However, it may be homogeneously precipitated in the product. Using suitable emulsifiers, annatto extract may be rendered “acid proof” and resist precipitation.


(E163). Anthocyanins are the reds to blues to purples commonly found in mature fruits (strawberries, elder­berries, cranberries, cherries, grapes, blueberries, etc.), vege­tables (red onion, red cabbage, purple carrot, etc.), seeds (purple hulled sunflower), and flowers (roses, petunias, etc.). Many different types of anthocyanin pigments exist, with vary­ing degrees of stability. Acylated forms, from sources such as red cabbages, often exhibit better stability than nonacylated forms. Anthocyanins change shade with changes in pH, ex­hibiting fairly stable red shades in acidic systems (pH below 3.8) and purple to blue shades (with limited stability) in systems with higher pH (4-8). Anthocyanins are commonly permitted in many countries throughout the world. Currently not all anthocyanin sources are permitted in the USA. Those that are permitted are either specifically listed in 21 CFR, e.g., grape skin extract (73.170) or grape color extract (73.169)- or meet the definition of a fruit or vegetable juice under 73.250 and 73.260, respectively. Anthocyanins are commonly used in acidic systems such as beverages, fruit fillings, candies, and confections.


One of the chemical classes of colorants characterized by one or more azo bonds (-N=N-). This bond is the “weak link” in the molecule and is readily broken by oxidizing and reducing agents. This lack of stability can be problematic in a food or food process, but advantageous during the digestive process where the colors are broken down into smaller, colorless, water-soluble compounds which are rapidly excreted in the urine.




(E160(e), CI Food Orange 6, CI #40820, CAS #1107-26-2, chemical class: carotenoid). A red-orange synthetically prepared carotenoid that is oil-soluble. β-Apo-­8’-carotenal, classified as a nature identical color, is found in products such as oranges and tangerines and is commonly used in products such as cheese spreads and snack foods. In the USA, a usage restriction of 15 mg/lb of semisolid or solid food exists.


(Carotene, E160(a), CI Food Orange 5, CI Natural Yellow 26, CI #40800/75130, CAS #7235-40-7, chemical class: carotenoid). β-Carotene, which exists abundantly in nature, is classified as a carotenoid. Commercial forms of natural β-carotene exist from several sources, including algae (Dunaliella salina) and palm oil. β-Carotene can also be synthesized and is referred to as “nature identical.” It is oil-soluble and exhibits a characteristic butter to egg yolk shade depending on applica­tion. Water-dispersible forms are commercially available and are commonly used in baked goods, beverages, and confections. Health properties associated with it include “antioxidant” or oxygen scavenging properties. In beverage applications, care must be taken that the β-carotene is compatible with other ingredients and that processing is such that ringing is prevented or minimized.


(Beetroot red, Beet juice/ powder, E162, CAS #579I7­55-2, chemical class: betalain). A water-soluble color found as the predominant pigment in red beets (Beta vulgaris). Several forms exist, including: 1) dried ground beets- referred to as dehydrated beet powder, which contains color and interfering agents that often add brown or “dirty” notes, 2) beet juice concentrate- the liquid obtained by concentrating the ex­pressed juice from mature beets, and 3) beet powder- made by spray-drying beet juice concentrate onto a carrier of malto­dextrin. Beet products are most often used in foods with low water activity such as frozen novelties, dairy products, and fruit fillings. It is not stable in liquid systems such as beverages. Often the heat instability is used to an advantage in non-standardized tomato-based systems such as spaghetti-type sauces (as tomato red extender color).


Term used to describe the migration of a soluble dye from a colored portion of a food into an uncolored or differ­ently colored portion.

Brilliant Black BN

(Black PN, E151, CI Food Black 1, CI #28840, CAS #2519-30-4, chemical class: azo). A deep-violet, water-soluble, synthetic dye. Good light stability, very poor heat stability. Not permitted in the USA.

Brilliant Blue FCF

(FD&C Blue #1, E133, CI Food Blue 2, CI #42090, CAS #3844-45-9, chemical class: TPM). A bright sky-blue, water-soluble dye. Very stable to most food processes. Will not be degraded by reducing bacteria in dairy products or by the microflora in the G.I. tract. Poor light stability. In the USA, only FDA-certified batches are allowed and are officially named “FD&C Blue #1”.

Brown HT

(Chocolate Brown HT, E155, CI Food Brown 3, CI #20285, CAS #455349-3, chemical class: azo). A chocolate-brown, water-soluble, synthetic dye with fair light stability and good heat stability. Not permitted in the USA.




(Roxanthin red, E161(g), CI Food Orange 8, CI #40850, CAS #514-78-3, chemical class: carotenoid). A syn­thetically prepared carotenoid that is commercially available as a water-dispersible powder. It exhibits reddish orange to dull violet shades, depending on form used and application. Canthaxanthin is referred to as a nature identical pigment as it also occurs naturally in salmon, shrimp, and flamingos (Marmion, 1991). In the US, canthaxanthin may be safely used for coloring foods generally subject to the following restrictions: (i) The quantity of canthaxanthin does not exceed 30 milligrams per pound of solid or semisolid food or per pint of liquid food; and (ii) It may not be used to color foods for which standards of identity have been promulgated under section 401 of the act unless added color is authorized by such standards. Separate limits apply to the use of the colorant in animal and fish feeds.

Caramel color

(Burnt sugar, E150, CAS #8028-89-5). Caramel colors result from the carefully controlled heat treatment of food grade carbohydrates. Often, catalysts are added to drive the reaction to the desired color end point. Caramel colors exhibit a colloidal charge and a variety of shades from yellow-brown to reddish brown, which are commercially available in powder or liquid forms.

There are four classes of caramel.  These are:
• Class I: No ammonia or sulfite reactants.
• Class II: Sulfite reactants, but no ammonia.
• Class III: Ammonia reactants, but no sulfites.
• Class IV: Sulfite and ammonia reactants.


(Carmine 40, E120, CI Natural Red 4, CI #75470, CAS #1328-60-5, chemical class: anthraquinone). A very stable colorant that is commonly referred to as the lake (pigment form) of cochineal extract. Cochineal readily binds with various ions, including aluminum and calcium. Various shades from yellow-red to magenta-red to violet-red can be obtained. In the USA, only the aluminum or calcium-aluminum lakes are permitted as color additives. Approximately 70,000 insects are required to produce 1 lb of 50% carminic acid lake. Carmine is often solubilized with alkali (sodium, ammonium, or potas­sium hydroxides) to yield a variety of water-soluble liquids. These are commonly used to color beverages, retorted products, yogurts, dairy products, baked goods, fillings, and confections to name a few. Alkaline solutions of carmine precipitate at a pH of 3.5 and below. This is used to an advantage in certain applications such as fruit fillings, pulp-containing beverages, and nonbleeding cherries. Carmine is not Kosher. Cochineal extract and carmine products are permitted as colorants in many countries throughout the world. See Cochineal Extract.


(Azorubine, E122, CI Food Red 3, Cl #14720, CAS #3567-69-9, chemical class: azo). A magenta-red, water-soluble, synthetic dye. Susceptible to degradation from re­ducing and oxidizing agents. Slightly less heat-stable than amaranth. Fair light stability. This dye produces a shade virtually indistinguishable from amaranth. Currently not approved in the USA.

Carotenoids (E160)

Carotenoids are widely distributed in nature, often functioning as accessory pigments in photosyn­thesis. It has been estimated that the annual production of carotenoids by nature is 100 million tons (Walford, 1980). Examples of colorants belonging to this category are β-caro­tene, canthaxanthin, β-apo-8′-carotenal, paprika oleoresin, annatto, xanthophylls, and crocin.

CAS number

A numbering system established by the American Chemical Society to unequivocally identify a specific chem­ical compound. It does not establish a purity grade.

Certified colors

In the USA, every production batch of approved synthetic colorants must be certified by the FDA laboratory as complying with the FDA specifications outlined in 21 CFR, Part 74. The manufacturer is charged S0.35/lb (updated 2/17) for every pound that the sample represents. Canada also re­quires batch certification, either from the FDA or from approved, self-certifying manufacturers.

Chlorophyll or chlorophyll-copper complex

(E140/E141, CI Natural Green 3, CI #75810, CAS #11006-34-1). A natural green pigment widely found in nature as part of the photo­synthetic process. Chlorophyll has inherent instability, which may be nature’s way of “cleansing” the world of an abundantly produced chemical (Hendry, 1992). The magnesium ion at the center of the porphyrin ring is easily removed, giving rise to yellow-brown breakdown products. This ion can be replaced with the more stable copper ion, yielding sodium-copper chlorophyllin complexes that are permitted in many parts of the world, including the USA. Unfortunately, the sodium-copper chIorophyllin complex, which is permitted in the US as a color additive, is limited to citrus-based dry beverage mixes in an amount not exceeding 0.2 percent in the dry mix and for coloring dentifrices which are drugs and cosmetics.


The quality of color by which the brightness of a shade is described, i.e., a lemon has higher chromaticity than butter.

CI number

An international numbering system established by the Society of Dyers and Colorists to unequivocally identify a specific dye molecule. It does not establish a purity grade.

Citrus Red #2

(CI Solvent Red 80, CI #12156, chemical class: azo). An orangish red, water-insoluble, synthetic dye, soluble in aromatic hydrocarbons. Permitted in the USA only for coloring the skins of oranges. at levels not to exceed 2 ppm.

Cochineal extract

(Carminic acid, E120, CI Natural Red 4, CI #75470, CAS #1260-17-9, chemical class: anthraquinone). An extract of a female cochineal insect (Dactylopius coccus Costa or Coccus cacti L.). This stable colorant dates back to antiquity. Cochineal extract (carminic acid) exhibits shade changes with changes in pH. At pH 4 and below, it is orange; at pH 4-6, it is a magenta-red color; and at pH greater than 6, it is a blue-red shade. However, forms of cochineal extract that remain red at pH below 4 are available. Cochineal is commonly cultivated in countries such as Peru, Ecuador, and the Canary Islands. It is commonly used to color beverages, sausage products, aperitifs (such as Campari), and confections. Cochineal extract is not kosher.

See Carmine


An instrument that measures the color of a substance, defining the shade in a three-dimensional color space simulating human color perception.




Part of the official nomenclature in the USA for one of the classes of certified colorants. In general, the term indicates that the colorant is permitted for drug and cosmetic use.


Term used to describe the removal of a colorant from a country’s approved list.


A suspension of insoluble colorants in a fluid medium, used to simplify the addition of the colorant into a food and allow the colorant to achieve full coloring strength.


A soluble colorant that manifests its full coloring power only upon dissolution.



E number

An official numbering system for various food additives established by the European Community.


See Red 2G


(FD&C Red #3, E127, CI Food Red 14, CI #45430, CAS #16423-68-0, chemical class: xanthene). A bright pink, water-soluble, synthetic dye. Poor light stability, excellent heat stability. Insoluble in low-pH systems. Based upon a strict legal interpretation of extensive toxicology studies, the lake form was delisted in the USA in 1990 along with the external drug and cosmetic applications of the dye. Currently in the USA, erythrosine dye is permitted only for use in ingested foods and drugs. Also, only FDA-certified batches are allowed and are officially named “FD&C Red #3.”

Exempt from certification

Exempt color additives are called “natural colors” by the industry. They are obtained from vegetable, animal, and mineral sources or are synthetic dupli­cates of naturally existing colorants.

External D&C

Part of the official nomenclature in the USA for one of the classes of certified colorants. In general, the term indicates that the colorant is permitted only for external drug and cosmetic use.



Fast Green FCF

(FD&C Green #3, CI Food Green 3, CI #42053, CAS #2353-43-9, chemical class: TPM). A teal-green, water-soluble, synthetic dye. Very similar chemically and functionally to Brilliant Blue FCF. Its use is essentially limited to the USA. In the USA, only FDA-certified batches are allowed and are officially named “FD&C Green #3.”

Fast Red E

(CI Food Red 4, CI #16045, CAS #2302-96-7, chemical class: azo). A red, water-soluble, synthetic dye. Not widely permitted around the world.


“For Coloring Food,” a term formerly used to differentiate a food-grade batch of dye from a technical-grade batch. In the USA, this term became obsolete in 1938 when the law required certified batches to use official nomenclature, i.e., FD&C, D&C, and External D&C.


Part of the official nomenclature in the USA for one of the classes of certified colorants. In general, the term indicates that the colorant is permitted for food, drug, and cosmetic use.


The visible effects of the primary colorants in a color blend individually dissolving and appearing as discreet shades until mixed. For example, the yellow and blue components of a green dye blend will initially be visible as the blend is dissolved. See Mono blend.

Fruit juices

Fruit juices that typically contain carotenoid- or anthocyanin-type pigments are often used in concentrated or unconcentrated forms as color agents. In the USA, fruit juice must be expressed from mature varieties of edible fruits or a water infusion of the dried fruit. Typical fruit juices are cranberry, raspberry, elderberry, cherry, grape, tomato, orange, and blends of these.




Gardenia extract is from the fruits of Cape jasmine (Gardenia). The fruits contain a variety of pigments, including crocin, flavonoids, and iridoids. These pigments are extracted in several ways to yield varying colors from yellow to blue. Gardenia pigments are often reacted with enzymes and with primary amines to form a variety of shades (Hendry, 1992). Gardenia is currently not permitted as a colorant in the USA or the EC countries. Most common application is found in the Orient, where most gardenias are produced.

Grape color extract

(E163). An aqueous solution of antho­cyanin grape pigments made from Concord grapes or a dehy­drated water-soluble powder prepared from the aqueous solu­tion. The solution is prepared by extracting the pigments from precipitated lees produced during the storage of Concord grape juice. It contains the common components of grape juice but not in the same proportion. In the USA, grape color extract is restricted to coloring of non-beverage foods.

Grape skin extract

(Enocianina, E163). Grape skin extract is obtained by an aqueous extraction of the fresh, deseeded mare remaining after grapes have been pressed to produce grape juice or wine. It contains the common components of grape juice but not in the same proportion. During the steeping process, sulfur dioxide is added, and most of the extracted sugars are fermented to alcohol. The extract is concentrated by vacuum evaporation, during which practically all of the alcohol is removed. A small amount of sulfur dioxide may be present, In the USA, grape skin extract is permitted only for use in coloring beverages.

See Anthocyanins

Green S

(Brilliant Green S, E142, CI Food Green 4, CI #44090e CAS #3087-16-9, chemical class: TPM) A greenish blue, water-soluble, synthetic dye exhibiting good heat stability but poor light stability. Not permitted in the USA.




The general shade of a colorant, such as yellow, green, or red.

Hue Angle

Term used to more accurately define a shade based upon colorimetric readings; for example, 90° = yellow, 135° = yellow-green, 180° = green.



Indigo carmine

See Indigotine.


One of the chemical classes of colorants characterized by the basic indigo structure.


(FD&C Blue #2, Indigo carmine, E132, CI Food Blue 1, CI #73015, CAS #860-22-0, chemical class: indigoid). A denim-blue, water-soluble, synthetic dye. Very light-stable in low-water-activity applications. Unstable in aqueous solu­tions. Widely permitted around the world. In the USA, only FDA-certified batches are allowed and are officially named “FD&C Blue #2.”




(CI Natural Red 3, CI #75460). Kermes refers to an extract of the insect Kermococcus ilices L., which is found in the Mediterranean area (Watford, 1980). The major pigment is called kermesic acid and is the aglycone of carminic acid (Watford, 1980). Kermes is currently not permitted in the USA.




See Lacaaic acid.

Lacaaic acid

(Lac, CI Natural Red 25, CI #75450). Often referred to as lac, this red color is extracted by dilute aqueous sodium carbonate from the solidified exudate of the insect Coccus laccae (CI 3rd edition, Volume 3). The insect lives on various trees in places like India and Indonesia. Lac is currently not permitted as a color additive in the USA. It is used in other countries throughout the world.


See Riboflavin.


An insoluble pigment made by adsorbing a soluble dye onto an insoluble substrate. FD&C lakes are made by adsorb­ing FD&C dyes onto a substrate of alumina hydrate. The resulting pigment is dispersed throughout the food product rather than dissolved into it.

Liquid Color

A stable, aqueous solution of water-soluble colorants (typically dyes). Color concentration can approach 20% in some cases.

Lithol rubine

(D&C Red #7, E 180, CI Pigment Red 57:1, CI #15850:1, CAS #5284-04-9, chemical class: azo). A bright red, water-insoluble, synthetic pigment. A certified colorant in the USA, “D&C Red #7” is permitted for use in drugs and cosmetics only.

Lot number

The identifying number assigned by FDA to a batch of color upon certification, such as AH-3044.


See Xanthophylls.


(E160(d), CI Natural Yellow 27, CI #75125). A pig­ment found in a variety of fruits including tomatoes, red grapefruit, and watermelon. Lycopene is a carotenoid that has received much attention due to its antioxidant properties. It is permitted in the US as Tomato lycopene extract/tomato lycopene concentrate when meeting the following CFR identities; (1) The color additive tomato lycopene extract is a red to dark brown viscous oleoresin extracted with ethyl acetate from tomato pulp followed by removal of the solvent by evaporation. The pulp is produced from fresh, edible varieties of the tomato by removing the liquid. The main coloring component is lycopene. (2) The color additive tomato lycopene concentrate is a powder prepared from tomato lycopene extract by removing most of the tomato lipids with ethyl acetate and then evaporating off the solvent.



Malt extracts/concentrates

Dark brown liquids and powders resulting from processing of barley malts. Malt extracts resemble caramel colors in shade and functionality. Although used as flavors, they are currently not permitted as color additives in the USA.

Metameric match

Two distinct colorants, or blends of color­ants, that produce identical shades under some light sources or conditions but not under all circumstances.


The effect of a substance changing its apparent color as the light source is changed.


See Bleed


Pigments produced by a type of fungus that grows on steamed rice (or other substrate). Monascus is produced commercially in Japan, China, and Taiwan (Hendry, 1992). The pigments are predominantly alcohol-soluble and can be used to color mock crab (surimi analogs), alcoholic beverages, and other products with pH levels greater than 4. Monascus is typically permitted in the countries where it is produced. It is not permitted as a colorant in the USA.


One of many terms used to describe a dye blend specially processed to eliminate the effect of flashing. This is the preferred form of a dye blend when coloring a dry-mixed product that will be dissolved by the consumer. Also known as a spray-dried or uni-dried blend.



Natural color

A word difficult to define and often misused. One would expect that colors such as beet juice, which is the concentrated juice expressed from mature varieties of edible beets, would be classified as a natural color while a product such as carmine, which is the lake of cochineal extract, would not. However, the U.S. FDA does not consider any color to be natural if it is added to a product in which it is not normally present. As an example, strawberry juice to color strawberry ice cream would be considered “natural,” while beet juice used to color strawberry ice cream would not. Definitions and regulations vary by country.

New coccine

See Ponceau 4R.


See Annatto extract.



Orange B

(CI Acid Orange 137, CI #19235, CAS #53060-70-1 chemical class: azo). A dull-orange, water-soluble synthetic dye. Not generally approved around the world, In the USA, its use is restricted to the coloring of sausage casings. There is no known producer of U.S. grade material.




This term often refers to the dried ground form of sweet red peppers, Capsicum annum. See Paprika oleoresin.

Paprika oleoresin

(E160(c), CAS #72968-48-0). Solvent-ex­tracted flavor and coloring principles of the sweet red pepper, Capsicum annum.Paprika oleoresin is obtained by extraction of the peppers with several permitted types of solvents, includ­ing hexane, ethylene dichloride, and various alcohols. Oil is commonly added to the extracts to standardize the strength (xan­thophylls and β-carotene). Typical strength designations are ASTA units (a standard developed by the American Spice Trade Association) and color value units (CVUs). The value of 1000 ASTA units is equivalent to 40,000 CVUs. Paprika oleoresins are oil-soluble, reddish orange shades. Typical appli­cations include coloring salad dressings, snack foods, cheese products, baked goods, breadings, and crackers.

Patent Blue V

(E131, CI Food Blue 5, CI #42051, CAS #3536-­49-0, chemical class: TPM). A bright blue, water-soluble syn­thetic dye, very similar in shade to Brilliant Blue FCF. Excellent heat and light stability. Not permitted in the USA but widely used throughout the world.

Permanently listed

When the U.S. Color Additives Amend­ment was passed in 1960, all the approved synthetic colors were initially moved to a “provisional” or temporary list. The intent was, that as new toxicology studies were completed, the colorant would either be “permanently” listed or banned. The tests were envisioned to be completed within 2 1/2 years, but re­quired nearly 30! All the current FD&C dyes are now perma­nently listed, whereas the lakes remain on the provisional list awaiting a final FDA decision. FD&C Red #40 Lake is the exception, as the dye and lakes forms were petitioned for, and permanently approved by FDA in 1970 having never been on the provisional list.


An insoluble colorant that colors by dispersion rather than by dissolution. Lakes are one type of pigment.

Plating character

The quality of a soluble colorant that imparts some coloring effect when used in a dry-blended product. For example, a plating-grade dye will provide some coloring to a presweetened drink mix even though the full effect is realized only when the drink (and the dye) is dissolved by the consumer. In this respect, the colorant is functioning both as a pigment and as a dye.

Ponceau 4R

(Cochineal Red A, New coccine, El24, CI Food Red 7, CI #16255, CAS #2611-82-7, chemical class: azo). A yellowish red, water-soluble synthetic dye. Moderate heat and light stability. Very similar in shade to Allura Red. Not per­mitted in the USA but widely used around the world.

Ponceau SX

(FD&C Red #4, CI Food Red 1, CI #14700, CAS #4548-53-2, chemical class: azo). An orange-red, water-soluble synthetic dye. Not generally permitted for food use around the world.. In the USA, the color is restricted to externally applied drugs and cosmetics.

Primary color

A single colorant that has not been blended with others, or one of the three shades from which all other shades can be blended: magenta, yellow, and cyan.

Provisionally listed

See Permanently listed.




One of the chemical classes of colorants characterized by being derived from quinaldine.

Quinoline yellow

(D&C Yellow #10, E104, CI Food Yellow 13, Cl #47005, CAS #8004-72-0, chemical class: quinoline). A bright greenish yellow, water-soluble synthetic dye. Excellent heat and light stability. In the USA, only FDA-certified batches are allowed and are referred to as “D&C Yellow #10.” Per­mitted for drug and cosmetic use only. This colorant is primarily a mixture of the mono- and disulfonated forms. The FDA specification differs from the EC and WHO specifications in that it specifies a predominance of the monosulfonated form. No individual batch can meet both the FDA and the EC or WHO specifications.



Red cabbage

See Anthocyanins

Red 2G

(E128, CI Food Red 10, CI #18050, CAS #3734-67-6, chemical class: azo). A red, water-soluble synthetic dye. Not widely used around the world. It is not permitted in the USA.


(Lactoflavin, E101[i]). Riboflavin, a bright yellow color, also referred to as lactoflavin and Vitamin B2, is a nature identical pigment. Naturally occurring in products such as milk, it can also be found in synthesized commercial forms. Riboflavin has limited solubility and a bitter taste, is light sensitive, and colors by being dispersed.


(E101[ii]). A water-soluble version of riboflavin with less flavor. Riboflavin-5′-phosphate has limited application due to its poor light stability. This product is not permitted in the USA for use as a color additive.


See Annatto extract.

Roxanthin red

See Canthaxanthin.



Safflower extract

(Carthamus yellow, CI Natural Yellow 5). A bright yellow extract from the flower petals of Carthamus tintorius, it is also referred to as carthamus. Safflower extract is currently not widely permitted as a color additive, although. it is sometimes used inappropriately in some countries under a “flavor” category. It is not currently permitted in the USA as a color additive. Saf­flower extract does provide a very stable yellow color that has quite appropriate stability for beverages, where approved.


(CI Natural Yellow 6, CI #75100). As a colorant, saffron is the dried stigmas or extract of a plant called Crocus sativus. The predominant pigments are crocin and crocetin (Marmion, 1991). Saffron is limited in its application due to cost; approximately 165,000 blossoms are required to produce 1 kg of colorant (Marmion, 1991). Saffron is commonly used as a spice and colorant for rice products. Its bright lemon-yellow color is also used in applications such as soups, baked goods, and certain dairy products.

Spray-dried blend

See Monoblend.

Sunset Yellow FCF

(FD&C Yellow #6, El 10, CI Food Yellow 3, CI #15985, CAS #2783-94-0, chemical class: azo). A bright orange, water-soluble synthetic dye. Fair heat and light stability. The dye easily forms an insoluble calcium salt unless a calcium-stable form is used. Near universal approval around the world. In the USA, only FDA-certified batches are allowed and are officially named “FD&C Yellow #6.”




(FD&C Yellow #5, E102, CI Food Yellow 4, CI #19140, CAS #1934-21-0, chemical class: azo). A bright yellow, water-soluble synthetic dye. Good heat and light stability. This colorant has an undeserved negative reputation. Generally permitted around the world. In the USA, only FDA-certified batches are allowed and are officially named “FD&C Yellow #5.”

Tinctorial strength

A measure of the coloring power of a colorant.

Titanium dioxide

(E171, CI Pigment White 6, CI #77891, CAS #13463-67-7, chemical class: inorganic coloring matter). A white pigment that is a reacted product from a mineral oxide called ilmenite, a type of iron ore. Titanium dioxide is manu­factured in two crystal forms, rutile and anatase. The latter is the form of choice as a colorant for food, pharmaceutical, and cosmetic applications. In the USA, purity of 99.0% or greater is required. Titanium dioxide is the only white pigment currently permitted as a color additive in the USA. It is often used to opacify systems such as low fat/no-fat salad dressings and dairy products, pet foods, baked goods, sugar-coated candies, and other confections. It colors by dispersion. It is not water- or oil-soluble. Two forms exist, one that is water-dispersible and one that has been washed to yield a product that is referred to as oil-dispersible.


Triphenylmethane—one of the chemical, classes of colorants characterized by three aromatic rings attached to a central carbon atom.

Tristimulus values

Colorimetry term used to describe the amounts of the three primary lights needed to describe the shade of a substance.

Turmeric oleoresin

(Curcumin, Turmeric yellow, E100, CI Natural Yellow 3, CI #75300, CAS #458-37-7). A bright yellow extract of a rhizome, Curcuma longa L., which grows pre­dominantly in India. The coloring principle, chiefly curcumin, is commonly extracted using solvents such as alcohol and acetone. Countries commonly specify the types of solvents that are permitted. FDA’s 21CFR 73.615 lists ethyl alcohol, isopropyl alcohol, acetone, etc. Although turmeric is unstable to light and alkaline conditions, it is heat stable and stable in the pH range of most food products. It is available with and without flavor components. Turmeric is permitted in many countries throughout the world.

Turmeric yellow

See Turmeric oleoresin.



Unidried blend

See Mono blend.



Vegetable juices

Some vegetable juices, typically in a concen­trated form, are used as coloring agents, In the USA, vegetable juices must meet the criteria of 21 CFR 73.260, which describes juice expressed from mature varieties of edible vegetables. Examples of commercially available vegetable juice colorants are red cabbage and black carrot juices which contain anthocyanins.



Wet/dry Blend

See Mono blend.




One of the chemical classes of colorants character­ized by the following structure:


(Lutein, E161, CI #75135, chemical class: carote­noid). Oxygenated carotenoids found in nature in places such as marigold (Tagetes meal) extracts.


Anonymous. Code of Federal Regulations, 21 CFR 70-82. U.S. Gov­ernment Printing Office, Washington, DC, 1994.

Anonymous. Colour Index, 3rd ed. Society of Dyers and Colourists, London, 1971.

Anonymous. Off. J. European Communities, Vol. 37. European Parliament and Council Directive 94/36/EC on Colors for Use in Food­stuffs. English ed. Sept. 10, 1994.

Anonymous. Specifications for identity and purity of food colors. Food and nutrition paper 31/1. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Rome, 1984.

Hallagan, J. IACM Update. International Association of Color Manufacturers, August 4, 1994.

Hendry, G. A. F., and Houghton, J. D. Natural Food Colorants. AVI, New York, 1992.

Marmion, D. M. Handbook of U.S. Colorants for Foods, Drugs and Cosmetics. John Wiley & Sons, New York, 1991.

Walford, J. Development in Food Colors. Applied Science Publishers Ltd., London, 1980.