When is a colour not a colour? When it’s a food…

By Caroline SCOTT-THOMAS contact

- Last updated on GMT

Colouring foods guidance notes published

Related tags: Food, European union, Food processing

New guidance on colouring foods clears up a problematic question for the food industry in Europe: When is a colour a food additive, requiring an E number, and when is it a food extract with colouring properties?

The European Commission’s Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health adopted the Guidance Notes​ earlier this month, allowing companies quickly and easily to work out whether their colouring ingredients should be designated as foods or colouring additives.

The guidance specifies that colouring ingredients can be considered ‘colouring foods’ rather than colouring additives if they are derived from fruits, vegetables, herbs or other foods that have been usually consumed in the EU since before 1997. It also says they should be minimally processed, and should retain the characteristics of the source material, among other specifications.

“There was a real need for a definition,”​ said Luc Ganivet, senior director of business development in Chr. Hansen’s natural colour division.  “With no definition it was a grey area. [The guidance provides] a clear definition of what will be the raw materials, then a clear definition of the processing itself, and then it also clarifies how to formulate.”

The guidance does not cover labelling of colouring foods, however.

Paul Collins, managing director of GNT UK, which also makes a range of colouring foods, said: “The guidance notes will give clarity and certainty to industry… The next step is how then to label the colouring food on the finished product so that the consumer would know it is being used.”

Although not covered by the guidance notes, he said that GNT recommends labelling the colouring food and where it comes from as best practice.

Ganivet added that the new guidance could help open the European market to international food manufacturers who might have been waiting for clarity on colouring foods.

“A lot of markets and countries were waiting for the conversion,”​ he said. “It is not so easy to formulate with products if there is no definition.”

The guidance takes effect from January 1, 2014, and recommends that all food products should comply from November 29, 2015.

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