The supplier said the Spirulina ingredient can be used on its own or together with other colouring foodstuffs. “On its own, it provides a blue shade similar to that of blueberries; in combination with safflower the shade resembles the green of gooseberries,” said Wild.
The blue colour is not suitable for beverage application, stressed the German firm, but can be used in products such as caramels, candies, marshmallows, and chewing gum.
Speaking to FoodNavigator.com, Hélène Möller, product manager for ingredients at Wild, said that colour was two years in development, with raw material sourcing and extraction taking up a considerable amount of that time.
“We also extensively tested the colouring foodstuff to determine how it interacted with other ingredients, and determined that it is extremely stable,” she said.
Spirulina belongs to the species of cyanobacteria; it is spiral-shaped and blue-green in colour. It can be found in both freshwater and salt water, with the main cultivation areas in the US, Thailand, India, Taiwan, China, Pakistan, Myanmar and Chile. “We source our Spirulina from several locations to ensure security of supply,” added Möller.
According to Wild, the new blue colour is declared as ‘Spirulina concentrate’ on the product labelling.
The term colouring foodstuffs is increasingly featuring throughout the global food and drinks industry. It usually refers to colouring extracts derived from recognised foods and processed in such a way that the extract retains the raw material’s characteristic properties such as colour and flavour.
They are becoming increasingly popular with food manufacturers, since they are considered as ingredients rather than additives and, as such, do not carry an E number classification, notes Leatherhead.
The UK’s Food Standards Agency (FSA) had been asked by the European Commission (EC) to 'road test' a group of substances comprising orange carrot, black carrot, elderberry, hibiscus, red cabbage, safflower, spirulina, turmeric/curcumin, paprika, pumpkin, beetroot, nettle extract and gardenia concentrates.
But in July this year, the agency reported that it had delayed its investigations into Spirulina and the other ingredients because of "resource issues".
The idea was to establish their legal status, and whether they should be defined as colouring foodstuffs and therefore legal food ingredients or additives, which have to be pre-approved before use.
The EC had now set up a working group to look at these substances. A spokesperson for the Commisson told FoodNavigator.com that guidance on legislation around colouring foodstuffs is expected to be finalised in the second half of 2012.