Improving Food Dye Analysis in Commercial Products with Spectrophotometry


Posted on April 27, 2017

The truth is that food color additives are a common ingredient in most processed foods. Despite “increasing evidence in recent years indicates that the abuse of dyes may cause adverse effects, many kinds of dyes are still widely used due to their low price, high effectiveness, and excellent stability. Therefore, determination of food dyes is important to quality control and control the amount of use permitted”1.  Many commercial food manufacturers rely heavily on colorants and dyes to improve the appearance of their products. Industry leaders know that color can greatly influence both taste perception and consumer acceptability, so color additives take precedence when it comes to product formulation and overall quality. Monitoring the color intensity of food additives is one of the most important factors in the overall appearance of a food product, yet they must be carefully monitored in order to meet safety standards and regulations. Spectrophotometers are widely used for food dye analysis in commercial products due to the efficient and accurate measurements they provide and the ability to store this data for careful monitoring and repeatability.

Measurement and Comparison of Natural and Artificial Food Dyes

Food product formulations often include natural or artificial coloring and careful monitoring of these additives is necessary to achieve desired results as well as meet industry standards. Spectrophotometers provide the ability to accurately measure their color intensity and quantify this information for repeatability. Using the latest technology ensures that food products maintain the same color intensity that the consumer has come to expect.

Whether using synthetic or natural dyes. All food color additives are regulated by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration)2.  These regulations divide color additives into two categories: certified and exempt from certification, or as many in the foods industry refer to as “artificial” and “natural” colorants. The artificial colorants consist of lakes and dyes that are identified by the FD&C number classification system. These artificial additives undergo strict compliance and safety regulations, and they are systematically reviewed for safety. In fact, FD &C red #3 was actually removed from the list of safe artificial food colorants in 1990, when it was officially classified as a carcinogen3.

Many manufacturers are making the change from artificial to natural food color additives, but with these changes comes new challenges in meeting consumer color expectations. Although many consumers are demanding natural alternatives, color quality is still the driving force behind commercial food product marketability.  As new color formulations arise, it will require FDA approval regardless of how it is derived. Instrumental analysis is not only important for meeting the FDA regulations on color additives, but it is essential in ensuring that color standards continue to meet consumer expectations. The ability to maintain the color intensity of our food choices without the use of synthetic dyes requires the use of instrumental analysis to meet consumer demands.

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