How much is too much color in your food?

Updated: Apr 21, 2020

Appearances(Colors) are deceptive!

According to a study conducted by the Institute of Food Technologists, 85% of the population in India, buy products because of its appearance, uniquely if they are all brightly coloured. Our brain is so much conditioned to those bright colours, that we sometimes start to consider the lighter coloured food to be low in quality.

According to a study by Mr Naidu and Soubhagya, 2014 (Technology advances in Food Colors), it is evident that India is one of the significant users of food colours when compared to other countries.

One must know the different colours that are added to our food. Some colours are wholly prohibited for usage and some that are restricted. This article will deal with the right measurements of intensity combined for the volume of the food prepared, the difference between dye and pigment and a whole lot of list of colours that are allowed in our diet.

DYE:- is a concentrated raw form which cannot be directly used in food and not safe for consumption

COLOURS: Food Colors are colouring substances: diluted with other solvents such as salt, gels, liquids, batters for safer consumption.

According to the FSSAI, colours can be used in acceptable limits only in Bakery, confectioneries, beverages, ice creams and candies. Colours are strictly banned for usage in Main dishes, side dishes like gravies, chutneys, sauces. Colours are used in permissible limits in medicinal, industrial and personal care products. This is because the average human consumption of bakery products and confectioneries are lesser to the daily consumption of staple food like rice and gravies. For instance, by weight, if 0.1g of colour is added to a sweet/confectionery and biriyani, we end up consuming more than 100 times the coloured substance from the Biriyani than fresh/bakery.

Color difference of Chicken starter that we usually eat from the Hotel and the one that is made at home. LHS:- TIKKA WITH COLOR AND RHS:- TIKKA WITHOUT COLOR. IMAGE FROM Google

Notice the color difference of a restaurant’s Gobi Manchurian and homemade. Image from Google.


You will be coming across in many of the food labels that will mention these in INS (International Numbering Standards) for colours:

· ARTIFICIAL FOOD COLORS — Brilliant Blue (INS 133), Fast Green (INS 143), Indigo tine (INS 132-dark blue), Erythrosine(INS-127-Pink), Tartrazine(INS 102-Yellow), Sunset Yellow(INS-110-Orange)


ARTIFICIAL FOOD DYES are chemically synthesised colours that harm health if consumed more than the prescribed limit. They can be in liquid, gel or powder forms. NATURAL COLOR DYES are naturally synthesised colours which doesn’t harm when consumed more. They can be in cash, gel, powder or other stable structures.

How to understand these limits in a simplified way?

The dye content for each colour be specified on the product package, and one must accordingly measure and mix the colour to the food. (Chart source:- Parikshan)

The above chart can be followed for the sweets that we prepare at home

SO, what happens if you consume more than the limit?

You will end up with a lot of Allergies, Asthma, Fatigue, Neurological Disorder, Thyroid tumour, Bladder Tumor, Brain tumour, DNA Damage, and so on.

Alternatives to such harmful dyes can be the use of natural vegetable colours from the Beets, Carrots, Spinach, Pumpkin, Berries, Red Cabbage, Turmeric, Saffron and Paprika. But, remember these are expensive, fade as they are heat sensitive and change in flavour when added more. Plus, the fruits and vegetables providing these colours possess the added benefit of nutrition and flavour profile that is compatible with and even enhances, the foods and beverages they brighten: juices, soups, processed meats, and sauces with added antioxidants and carotenoid pro-vitamins.

DO not buy or consume food that has an abnormal colour appearance than its original colour. Say a big NO. You pay for what you eat outside. Hence you have every right to know what the restaurant adds to your food. Educate the kids not to get tempted by colourful food they see on roads and restaurants. Encourage the practice of measuring the amount of colours that we add in our homemade sweets. Know the colours that you’re consuming in food and what the manufacturer adds in the product. Ask the person who sells confectioneries, pastries or cakes the amount of colours they add to the product. It is a shame if they say they don’t know. Share the knowledge with your friends and those involved so that they are all aware of this.

Yet again, Appearances(Colors) are deceptive!

#Foodsafetyawareness #Foodcolors #FoodSafety #SyntheticFoodColors

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