REGULATIONS AND LABELING
Food laws are similar in concept throughout the world, each borrowing or emulating each other. They differ in the color additives being regulated and the extent of control. Europe and the US are similar, and because most other countries accept products (and their color content), our review will highlight US regulations.
Several food and drug laws regulating color additives precede the 1960 Color Additive Amendment. This latter law places color additives into two groups:
1. Certified color additives
2. Exempt form certication color additives (21 CFR Part 73)
The first group lists seven (7) synthetic FD&C colorants and two (2) for restricted use; all of which require certification of compliance with purity standards specified by FDA.
The second group contains twenty-six (26) color additives not requiring certification by FDA (i.e., color additives exempt from certification). Most color additives commonly known as “natural” in the US are on the FDA exempt list. Thus the confusion; FDA has no “natural” category for color additives. In fact, FDA does not accept the concept of “natural vs. synthetic” colors and requires all color additives to be made to the same standard of safety. Moreover, the addition of ANY color additive renders the finished product artificial … even if the color added is natural.
In the US, the manufacturer has several labeling options for the product’s ingredient statement – certified and exempt colors can be declared generically as “artificial colors.” Since this dilutes the marketing punch sought by the use of “natural colors,” most manufacturers opt for one of the following labeling guides:
1. "Color Added"
2. "__________ color"-- beet juice, annatto color, etc.
3. "__________ (For Color)"-- beet juice (for color), annatto (for color), etc.
4. "Colored with __________"--colored with beet, colored with annatto, etc.
Note that FDA does not recognize “natural colors,” and therefore the word “natural” cannot be used in an ingredient statement to modify a color additive.
The law can be confusing and it is strongly recommended that you consult legal counsel for your product labeling. This review is for guidance only and should not be used as legal advice.
The emphasis of almost all food regulations is safety. The European Union is moving towards the use of only color additives from natural sources. This may have a strong influence on supply and cost, as well as the ultimate US regulatory scheme in the future.