Food Coloring for Drinks & Their Regulation: 8 Things You Need to Know

Over half of adults consciously try to eat food in many different colors. Although, if you want to color your food, you should ensure that it is a certified color before you do so. But, what even is a certified color, and how can you have the assurance that you are using one?

Below we answer many questions about food coloring. By the end of the article, you should have more information about safe food coloring, the types of food coloring that exist, and many more answers. So, read on and learn what your food coloring options are.

1. What Is Food Coloring for Drinks?

When considering food coloring, you should ensure that you have a good understanding of what it is that you are talking about.

These are chemical substances that change the appearance of food or drink by enhancing or combining different colors. The concept has been around for thousands of years. Many of the core ingredients in them come from natural sources such as insects or basic minerals.

When first discovered, many of these colors were not as strong compared to their modern counterparts. They also often contained dangerous chemicals, such as lead or mercury.

Over the centuries, we have refined these ingredients to make sure that they have a more pronounced effect, so you need to use less per item. At the same time, work has gone into ensuring that they are also safer.

Food coloring has a storied history of danger and regulation. In 1851, for example, hundreds of people ate lozenges that contained poisonous food colorings. This led to a spate of laws to ensure such problems did not occur in the future.

In the 16th century, for example, Germany banned counterfeit food coloring due to a spate of false colorants. It had become so prevalent that those who took part in the practice faced capital punishment, which was often burning at the stake.

In America, this does not happen, although counterfeit color still exists and is common in some parts of the world. On top of this, since the mid-1800s, we have also developed synthetic food colors. These are much cheaper to produce and companies can create these in bulk without hard-to-find or non-vegan ingredients.

The federal government of the USA soon regulated these, and as such there are limitations to what you can and cannot use.

2. What Are Color Additives

The FDA defines color additives as:

“Any dye, pigment, or other substance that can impart color to a food, drug, or cosmetic or to the human body”

In plain terms, this means that all food colors are color additives.

The FDA considers color additives to be an important part of advertising and communicating a product’s nature. For example, one might often consider purple candy to be grape flavor in America, or green candy to be apple flavor. 

Such communication is not only important for the enjoyment of the user. It can also have a serious legal nature to it. If, for example, someone is allergic to apples, they might not want to eat them, so they will check all green candy to make sure that it does not contain any.

Color additives come in three different kinds. These are:

  • Colors
  • Lakes
  • Mixtures

Colors are when the user has not mixed the color with anything else and is adding it “straight” into the thing to receive color. Lakes are like colors but have undergone a chemical reaction to turn them into something else first. Mixtures are non-reacted combinations of different colors.

You should note that “colors” are not only related to ROYGBIV pigments. On top of these, shades such as white, grey, and black have the same standards applied to them. Thus, if these exist in a mixture to alter a color, they would fall under the same regulations as any other color.

3. What Is a Certified Color?

Because of the possible dangers of some food colorings, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) certifies whether some are safe or not. This is true regardless of if the color appears in food, drink, or cosmetics. Shops can then sell safe food coloring without the seller being in danger of legal action related to it.

Although you should note that this does not only relate to whether the certified color sees use or not. The FDA also can determine how much of a specific color is too much. This limits how much can exist in a certain volume of food due to the possibility that it is dangerous over certain saturations.

Such colors are then displayed in a prominent position on food packaging. This means consumers can see what they are buying. They can then make their shopping decisions based on whether they are comfortable with certain dyes or not.

Within the U.S., the law that governs the nature of certified colors is the Code of Federal Regulations Title 21, Part 74. This not only defined what can see used but also who has the authority to make certain decisions about each dye.

4. What Governs the Color of Products?

Part of the FDA’s role is to inform food producers of the rules and laws about the reasonable use of food colors. Whether someone is making colored drinks or food, there are some guidelines that they should follow:

  • Producers should not use colors that are unsafe or that the FDA has not approved
  • Producers should not use colors more than a volume determined by the FDA or a relevant other authority
  • Colors should never mislead the consumer about what is within the product
  • Producers should list all ingredients, including colors, on the packaging

Some of this might even allow for the wholesale change of a product’s color. For example, if an orange’s peel is green, orange producers have the authority to dye its peel orange if they are sure that the inside is still ripe. The FDA says the following about this:

“It is a common practice to color the skins of oranges in certain orange growing areas of the country because of climatic or cultural conditions which cause the oranges to mature while still green in color.”

5. What Food Coloring Is in Alcoholic Drinks

Many alcoholic drinks have added colorings. Many of these are to help people “drink with their eyes” and give them an expectation of flavor.

In beer, for example, one of the most common colors added is a caramel-like brown called Farbebier. This helps it appear like many other beers on the market if the beer is being pushed toward a wider audience.

On top of this, alcoholic drinks are often colored if there is a cultural relevance to one color or another. With the different types of food coloring available, one can make almost any color one might choose.

In the West, for example, you would want any alcoholic beverage that should evoke passion and romance tinted red. A common example of this would be the common nature of wine during a romantic meal. Thus, you might want to brand other drinks as appropriate for such an occasion using artificial colors.

6. What Are the Most Appetizing Colors

When discussing food coloring options, it is important to understand that some colors are more natural in what we drink. Some others may go so far as to disgust us.

This has a somewhat evolutionary use to it. In the past, we may have avoided colors related to mold or decay, for example. For this reason, green-blue food or drink is rarely welcomed for consumption.

Red and yellow are often seen as “delicious”, for example; many fruit drinks are this color to evoke a refreshing mood. But, while white is often seen as “clean”, people see its innocent tones as something opposite to what they want in a drink.

7. What Is a Natural Coloring for Drinks

Many natural colors are still used in drinks. Many foods contain strong dyes that can tint such drinks. These might not always be appetizing, so you should use them sparingly.

These include:

  • Beetroot juice
  • Caramel coloring
  • Turmeric
  • Purple carrot juice
  • Annatto

8. What Color Makes You Thirsty

There are two options here:

Bright Blue. These shades bring about feelings of large expanses of water. They can bring about feelings of thirst.

Bright Red. This color evokes feelings of health and vigor. It encourages both an appetite for food as well as drink.

More About Finding a Certified Color Expert

Now you should have a much better idea of how and why food coloring matters when preparing food and drinks. You should also know what a certified color is and why they are so important. 

If you want to know more about how to use this knowledge in your business or industry, MetaBrand can help you. We are available to talk about both beverage formulation and advice about certified coloring. So, call us if you want help as our specialists are ready to talk to you.

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