Thursday, January 30, 2014

Clean-Label Coloring for Dairy Foods

While researching the latest on color usage in beverages for the next edition of Food Business News, I came across a report entitled “Food Dyes: Rainbow of Risks.” It was published in 2010 and authored by Sarah Kobylewski, a Ph.D. candidate (at the time) in the Molecular Toxicology Program at the University of California, Los Angeles, and Michael Jacobson, executive director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest. Photo source: DuPont

You can access the report HERE.

Though the report is a few years old, its content remains relevant. The comprehensive report functions as testimony to CSPI’s tenacious plea to FDA to ban all synthetic food colors in the United States.

Synthetic food colorings have been the subject of controversy since the 1970s, when a pediatrician first suggested a correlation of intake to children’s behavior. They came under greater scrutiny in September 2007 after the results of a British study from the University of Southampton showed a correlation between artificial food colors and exacerbated hyperactive behavior in children. Even though many medical experts questioned the study’s protocol, it stirred consumer concern and continues to do so.

Since the Southampton study, CSPI has taken the position that all synthetic food colors should be banned in the United States. The reality is CSPI is not a fan of any food colorings. The nonprofit group believes all colorings deceptively enhance the visual attractiveness of foods and beverages.

This, of course, is no secret. Most of us eat with our eyes first, and then taste the food.

Food colorings are not going away…but choosing clean-label food colorings is the direction that many food and beverage manufacturers, in particular dairy processors, are taking as they go forward in product development endeavors.

I wrote an article entitled “Color Considerations for Dairy Products,” which was published in Food Business News this past December. It can be accessed HERE.

One of the key attributes to consider, as mentioned, is clean label.

CLEAN LABEL equates to:
  • Consumer friendly
  • Pure
  • Natural
  • Real
  • Recognizable Ingredients
  • Simple
This is according to Global Food Forum Inc., as outlined at its 2013 Clean Label Conference in Chicago at the end of October.

To view a video on "What Clean Label Means to Consumers," click HERE.

More is less for many consumers when they are examining ingredient labels. And when it comes to colors, this ingredient category is increasingly being scrutinized.

Source: International Food Information Council Foundation, 2013 Food & Health Survey

According to the 2013 Food & Health Survey published by the International Food Information Council (IFIC) Foundation, the addition of color additives to food is a growing consideration when making food purchases. When the 1,006 survey participants were asked to think about product attributes influencing their decision to purchase packaged foods or beverages during the past year, 23% of respondents in 2013 considered if the product contained food colors. This is up four percentage points from 2012.

The survey results also indicated that women are more likely than men to consider food colors, as are highly educated consumers (with a college degree or more). 

Source: International Food Information Council Foundation, 2013 Food & Health Survey

Eighteen percent (18%) of the respondents further indicated that they are consciously trying to avoid food colors.

This data, and similar opinions cited in other research, have made color selection critical for dairy foods formulators. After all, most dairy products complement today’s consumers’ desire for clean, simple and natural foods. Undesirable colors can ruin that pretty picture.

To view a video interview on "Label Friendly Natural Flavors and Colors," click HERE

Whole Foods Market’s “Unacceptable Ingredients for Foods” list, which can be accessed HERE, often serves as a guide for manufacturers and consumers regarding what is a clean-label ingredient. The lists identifies the following as unacceptable: artificial colors, carmine, certified colors and FD&C colors. Other than carmine, the other three terms all refer to the same group of synthetic colors. Carmine, on the other hand, is not a synthetic color; however, its source—insects—has deemed it unacceptable by Whole Foods.

Photo source: Baskin-Robbins

Red is challenging

The fact is, carmine is an inexpensive source of vibrant red color. Its use in dairy foods, providing the formulation contains no synthetic colors, allows for a package claim of “contains no artificial colors.”
Dannon uses it and has taken the position that it is a safe and commonly used red coloring that many food makers use. “It is used in many food and other products because it is safe and it delivers the best color,” according to Michael Neuwirth, senior director of public relations at Dannon. Because carmine does cause serious allergic reactions in some consumers, FDA requires it to be identified on the ingredient statement.

Interestingly, others in the food and beverage industry must value the power of carmine, as red has been identified as the most challenging hue to obtain through natural sources.

To gain customer insight, D.D. Williamson (DDW) polled 31 industry technologists at the biennial Food Ingredients Europe exposition held in November 2013 in Frankfurt, Germany. Only those with technical credentials participated in the poll that featured the following question: “Which [one] hue from natural sources is the most technically challenging for [your] new product development?”

Red, selected by 39% of respondents, ranked highest. Green and blue scored 19% and 13%, respectively. Other technologists voted for black, purple, yellow, brown or orange, but none selected white from the list.

“The poll’s data reveal natural red’s challenge, particularly in the meat, dairy and bakery sectors,” says Campbell Barnum, vice president-branding and market development at DDW. “Few choices can deliver a heat-stable, naturally derived, customized red hue in products with neutral to higher pH.”

Seven (23%) of the 31 technologists work in the beverage industry. The confectionery, dairy and meat/poultry/seafood sectors account for 19% each. The bakery/snack/cereal sector represents 13% of participants, and others account for 6%.

Photo source: DDW

Beets to the rescue
If carmine is not an option, ingredients derived from beets are likely a dairy processor’s best bet for red. Betanin is the main coloring compound present in red beets. The colorings responsible for the red hue of red beet juice are a group of molecules called betalains. This group of pigments contains the red and yellow pigments known as betacyanins and betaxanthins, respectively.

Red beet root hues vary further depending on the betalains extracted. Betacyanins are magenta pigments, while betaxanthins are yellow pigments. The distribution of extracted pigments varies due to factors such as beet root cultivar and extraction method. Like most food ingredients, not all beet juice extracts are the same.

To read more about “Color Considerations for Dairy Products,” click HERE.

To learn more about "New Flavors with Incidental Color: Caramelized Apple and Caramelized Onion," click HERE.

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