1. Why are colors added to products?

Colors are very pleasing to the eyes as opposed to just black & white. Striking colors improve product imagery and make products more presentable. Obviously, with improved imagery, product weightage in the mind of the consumer is improved and there are better sales.

2. How much color should be added?

Too much color can make products look too bright and unrefined in the consumers’ mind. Color should be added, keeping in mind the cultural values of the sales zone and the customers’ psyche. A good balance of color can make a product optimally presentable while also keeping in mind the permissible level for respective foods as per the law.

3. Is color dangerous for health?

Selected food colors are not dangerous to health if they are used as per the guidelines. Certain food colors are now banned or restricted for applications in food due to their effect on human health.

4. How does one decide the type of color?

The color and its form should be chosen keeping in mind its pH values and its ability to withstand temperature, light and oxidizing or reducing agents.

5. Which industries use color?

All industries use colors. Starting from food to pharma to cosmetics to animal feed, to plastics, to handicrafts, to metal to heavy industry, none of them can ever be truly successful without color.

6. Which colors are used in food?

Usage of colors in food can only be as permitted by the laws of respective countries or economic trade zones (e.g. EU). These laws particularly apply to synthetic colors. Generally though, Tartrazine, Sunset Yellow, Brilliant Blue FCF, Indigo Carmine, Erythrosine, Carmoisine, Ponceau 4R, Fast Green FCF are allowed along with a few others.

7. How is Silver color made?

Silver color can be made using Candurin silver fine & in combination with other basic colors it gives a very pleasing silvery effect.

8. What are Lake colors?

Lake colors are water insoluble versions of water soluble dyes. Also called Lake pigments, they are made by absorption of aluminum hydroxide.

9. What are Natural & Synthetic colors?

Natural colors are made only from natural sources. In most cases these sources are vegetables, fruits and flowers. Occasionally, natural colors are created from insect body fluid extracts (e.g. Cochineal). Synthetic colors are created using chemical synthesis of atoms and molecules.

10. What is the difference between Natural & Synthetic colors?

Natural colors originate from either vegetables or fruits or flowers or, in some cases, even insects. Synthetic food colors are chemically synthesized. Natural colors do not have the kind of depth and effects which synthetic colors can create. Natural colors are dull compared to synthetic colors. We need to add more natural colors to a product to get an effect that minimal amounts of synthetic colors can give. They are also less stable than synthetic colors and require special storage conditions such as deep freezing or below 8°C where as synthetic colors can generally be stored from 0°C to 50°C easily. Natural colors have a consistency issue since they are dependent on the starting raw material which may change from season to season or region to region. Also, natural colors are notoriously more difficult to handle than synthetic colors because they are less stable. Yet, it is undeniable that natural colors are safer than synthetic colors in most cases. That is why natural colors can be used as per GMP norms whereas synthetic colors have restrictions at PPM level.

11. Why are natural colors dull as compared to synthetic?

This lack of brightness and depth is due to low concentration & weak hue. There are more reasons for this. One of them is the inconsistency of shade in raw material from different seasons or regions. There may even be inconsistency from fruit to fruit. A technical reason is that they cannot be dried directly since there may be charring, which may destroy the color. To avoid charring during the drying process a carrier has to be used and this carrier dilutes the color making it weak.

12. Do colors contain flavors?

No colors (especially synthetic colors) contain any kind of flavor. But if any carrier that contains flavor is used in the process then that can sometimes come into play.

13. Why do colors precipitate in some cases?

The precipitation occurs due to the unstable nature of a given color in certain parameters. e.g. Erythrosine has a tendency to precipitate below pH of 6.5, so if we use Erythrosine in a formulation with a pH below 6.5 then it precipitates and the color fades.

14. How are colors identified globally?

Globally colors are identified by the "color index number" (CI number). e.g. Tartrazine is CI 19140, Sunset Yellow is CI 15985 and Brilliant Blue is FCF CI 42090 etc. As far as Europe is concerned they identify the color as per "E" no. which is E102, E110 and E133 respectively for the above mentioned colors. In India these colors are identify by the "IS" nos., which are IS:1694, IS:1695 & IS:6406 for the above mentioned colors respectively.

15. Which colors are banned in which countries?

Usage of colors in food can only be as permitted by the laws of respective different countries or economic trade zones (e.g. EU) have different laws as regarding usability of various food colors, especially synthetic food colors. In general, 14 colors are permitted for use in food in Europe, 6 in USA and 8 in India. There is also lot of confusion, controversy surrounding permitted food colors. e.g. Allura is permitted in Europe & US but banned in India, where as Ponceau 4R, Carmoisine are permitted in Europe & India but banned in US.

16. Can we replace all Synthetic colors with Natural colors?

This is a very difficult question to answer. Replacing synthetic colors with natural colors is mostly dependent on the shade that needs to be replaced. (Sometimes exact shading replacement can be difficult.) But in general, natural colors can replace synthetic colors.

17. How are colors tested?

Colors are tested on different instruments depending on the parameters that are to be tested. Purity can be tested using a spectrophotometer, after dissolving the color in the respective solvent. Moisture can be tested using the oven method, the new age technology, I.R. Moisture balance. Salt content such as sodium chloride & sodium sulfate are tested by using potentiometer. Impurities can be identified with the help of HPLC or GC. Heavy metals can be tested on atomic absorption spectrophotometer or inductively coupled plasma.

18. What determines the strength?

Strength is how the industry defines the coloring power of the color or shade. Technically speaking, this means, what part of the coloring compound, in any given coloring sample, gives color to a substrate. In other words we could call it total color content or purity.

19. How color is best packed?

Color, being a compound which can be affected by light, temperature and other chemical atoms, is best packed in an air tight primary liner of LDPE. Post this, those liner packs should be placed in secondary containers which can be of HDPE, fiber or box material. After packing, they should be stored hygienic conditions & clean atmosphere, adhering to any required ambient or other special conditions.

20. How do Heavy Metals impact colors?

Heavy Metals do not make any major impact on color if they are within the specified range. But if they are present in amounts exceeding the technical specs then the colors could decompose. e.g. if iron is present in large amounts then it will oxidize the color which will fade. Apart from impacting the colors themselves, heavy metals can also be very hazardous to human health. The presence of heavy metal, beyond the specified amounts can cause dangerous diseases and illnesses to humans.