Those beautiful changing colors remind me of the power of plant pigments.
Pardon this slight digression to set the stage for why natural colors are the way to formulate dairy foods.
This past weekend at one of the last farmers’ markets of the season, a vendor selling me corn on the cob explained that the tips of the cobs are slightly moldy because of the excessive rain and his lack of spraying, meaning pesticides. We got into a lengthy discussion about sprays. I explained I have no issues with them. They serve a purpose, much like the human bug spray I repeatedly apply on a hot sticky summer night watching my son’s baseball game in the forest preserve. He appreciated the analogy and wished others understood.
The conversation continued with my gal pal with whom I was shopping. She was shocked to know I am fine with artificial sweeteners—they keep sugar intakes down. High-fructose corn syrup keeps costs down and many foods fresh. (Think bread.) Partially hydrogenated oils, though I am told are not safe for my body even in the smallest amounts, do keep fats from going rancid. The list goes on and on. I’m an all things in moderation kind of woman…except when it comes to food colors.
(If you need a refresher course on food color additive regulations in the States, scroll to the bottom of this blog to read “Food Colors 101.”)
(If you would like to know more about the legislation of food colors in Europe, link HERE for a position paper from The Natural Food Colours Association.)
Here’s the deal with food colors in dairy foods. If you can use naturally derived colors to make foods and beverages more appealing, why use artificial, petroleum-based colors? The only purpose of the colorant is to add color, so keep the label clean and simple. Photo Source: DDW
According to DDW’s Jody Renner-Nantz, “It’s almost never impossible to avoid certified colors in certain dairy foods. It is easier in the hue ranges of yellow to orange and pink to red…For the most part, dairy products are refrigerated or frozen and protected from light, so the light stability of pigments is not an issue. In terms of heat, exempt colors can withstand high temperature short-time (HTST) pasteurization; however, most will not withstand ultra-high temperature (UHT) processing.”
With that said, the science of natural colors continues to progress and advancements are constantly being made to assist with vibrancy and stability. For example, new oil dispersible technology allows for water-soluble colors to be added to oil-based systems or used for plating to ensure even distribution. This technology is particularly useful for browns, pinks and purples. Applications include compound coatings used on ice cream and various inclusions, cheese/dairy spreads, and more. To view a video about this technology, link HERE.
I hope to see many of you at The International Association of Color Manufacturers this week in Chicago, which carries the theme of “Making an Impact: Using Color to Safely Enhance Food and Beverage.”
In the meantime, check out these new products and the natural colorants being used.
Yoplait calls out on package fronts of its Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Yogurt that it’s made with natural colors. Just look at the beautiful hues of blue and red obtained from fruit and vegetable juices.
New Misha Quark uses paprika extract to liven up the Peach Mango variety and vegetable juice in the Strawberry variant.
The new Haagen-Dazs Pomegranate Dark Chocolate Ice Cream Bars are enhanced with elderberry juice concentrate.
Dannon Creamery Dairy Desserts rely on fruit and vegetable juices for vibrancy.
Food Colors 101
The term color additive is legally defined in Title 21, Part 70 of the Code of Federal Regulations (21 CFR 70). Basically, any ingredient with the sole purpose of adding color to a food or beverage is a color additive, with all color additives requiring approval by FDA as a food additive.
In the U.S., synthetic food colors are classified by FDA as color additives subject to certification (21 CFR 74). They are certified with an FD&C number. This indicates that the additive has been tested for safety and is approved for used in foods, drugs and cosmetics, or FD&C. Seven colors were initially approved under the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906. Over time, several have been delisted and replaced. Today there are still seven, which can be combined into an infinite number of colors; hence, the seven are considered primary colors.
The seven synthetics are further classified as standardized dyes or lakes. Dyes are a concentrated source of color and are water soluble and oil insoluble. Lakes, on the other hand, are made by combining dyes with salts to make them water-insoluble compounds. Thus, they are best described as providing color by dispersion. Lakes are considered to be more stable than dyes and are ideal for coloring products that either contain fat or lack sufficient moisture to dissolve dyes.
FDA also provides a list of color additives that are exempt from certification (21 CFR 73). By default, these colors are often characterized as natural but FDA does not consider any color added to as food unless the color is natural to the product itself. For example, consumers expect strawberry milk to have a red hue. If strawberry juice is added for color, and providing that none of the other ingredients in the milk were characterized as artificial, this product could be labeled “all-natural strawberry milk.” Such a description is not possible if beet juice, an FDA-recognized exempt-from-certification color additive, is used for a colorful boost. What is appropriate to say is “does not contain any artificial colors.”