The first food colours - and the first colour crackdowns
By Niamh Michail
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Natural pigments have been used to colour food since ancient times - the early Romans are known to have used flowers, carrots, mulberries, pomegranates, and beets to add colour to foods while saffron gets a mention in Homer's Iliad.
And long before the creation of the European Union, European countries showed a passion for adopting regulation on food colours. According to a review by Adam Burrows, Palette of Our Palates: A Brief History of Food Coloring and Its Regulation, the French issued an edict against colouring butter way back in 1396 while a 1574 French law forbade manufacturers from using colour to indicate the presence of eggs in pastries.
But the Germans went even further. Jim Cook, author of Colorants Compliance: The World of Food Ingredients, says a 1531 law from Augsberg in Germany saw those using counterfeit saffron burned.