Coloring foods, such as beet juice or paprika concentrate, are sometimes added to foods to replace colorants (E numbers). However, you should not simply add coloring foods to foods. This is only allowed if dyes are also permitted in the food. Not all food coloring is hazardous, maybe using some old food coloring brush will lead to food poisoning. This source webpage will help you to choose what is the best brush are you going to use.


Does a product contain a coloring food and may no coloring agents be added to the same product at all? In that case, the consumer may be misled or there may be a risk to public health.

Example tuna

The coloring of tuna makes it look nicer and fresher than it is. This is misleading. It can also be dangerous if the tuna is actually almost spoiled. In that case, there is a risk of histamine formation and consumers can become ill. This is why tuna should not be colored: not with a coloring food such as beet juice, but also not with an additive such as E300 (Ascorbic acid) in combination with E301 (Sodium ascorbate, antioxidant) and E331 (Sodium citrates, food acid).

How do I find out if I can add colorants to food?

You can find out for yourself whether you can add colorants to foods. Use the step-by-step plan ‘Can additive X be added to food Y?’, which is based on the additive legislation. Does the law say you can’t add dyes? Then you may not add coloring foods.

How do I know if an additive is a dye or a coloring food?

You want to color foodstuffs and you have purchased a coloring additive for this from a supplier. So how do you find out whether this additive is a dye or a coloring food? Look for this on the packaging or on the label. Is there an E number or the name of the additive? Then you are dealing with a dye. Is there a coloring ingredient on the packaging? Then you are dealing with coloring food. Do you want to know for sure? In that case, request evidence from your supplier.

What is the difference between a dye and a coloring food?

In the case of dyes, only the coloring pigments have been removed from the food; the taste, aroma, and nutrients are left behind. Coloring foods are created by thickening or concentrating and contain the coloring pigments as well as the taste, aroma, and nutrients, but in a thickened or concentrated form.

Example spinach in noodles

Noodles get a light green color by the addition of spinach in the form of concentrated juice or extract. Is the spinach concentrated into juice? Then that juice is a coloring food because the juice also contains flavors, fragrances, and nutrients. Spinach must be listed as an ingredient on the label. Are the coloring pigments of the spinach selectively extracted from the spinach? And did the aromas and flavors remain in the spinach? Then especially the green coloring is removed from the spinach and added to the noodles. The E number must be stated on the label. In this case dye E-140. More information on the difference between food coloring and coloring food can be found in Chapter 13 of the Handbook of Additives for Food Manufacturers.