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FD&C Colors

Alternate Names

Food, Drug and Cosmetic Colors, Artificial Colorings, Synthetic Colors, FD&C Lakes, Food Dyes, Food Colouring, Artificial Colourants


According to the FDA website, a color additive is, "any dye, pigment or substance which when added or applied to a food, drug or cosmetic, or to the human body, is capable (alone or through reactions with other substances) of imparting color." The FDA regulates all color additives for safety and labeling. Colorants are classified by the FDA as either subject to certification or exempt from certification. Exempt colors are made from natural sources including vegetables, insects or minerals. They tend to be more expensive and may add unintended flavors to foods. Certified colors are synthetically produced, are inexpensive, and impart an intense color without changing the taste of the food. Certified colors are often referred to as artificial colors. All certified colors have an FD&C name (Food, Drug and Cosmetic Colors). Click here to see full descriptions of each FD&C color.

FD&C Colors - Quick Stats

Food, Drug and Cosmetic Colors, Artificial Colorings, Synthetic Colors, FD&C Lakes, Food Dyes, Food Colouring, Artificial Colourants

Allergy Information

FD&C Blue No.2

FD&C Red No.40

FD&C Blue No.2

FD&C Yellow No.6

FD&C Yellow No.5



Additional Information

The FDA website explains that color additives are used in foods for a variety of reasons: (1) to offset color loss due to exposure to light, air, temperature extremes, moisture and storage conditions; (2) to correct natural variations in color; (3) to enhance colors that occur naturally; and (4) to provide color to colorless and 'fun' foods. Without color additives, colas wouldn't be brown, margarine wouldn't be yellow and mint ice cream wouldn't be green. The term "lakes" is used when FD&C colors are combined with forms of aluminum or calcium to make them an insoluble pigment (such as FD&C Blue No.2 Aluminum Lake). For complete colorant listings, visit the FDA Summary of Color Additives or FDA Color Additive Status List. Certified colors are very controversial and numerous animal and human studies have been conducted with a variety of outcomes (see possible health effects section below)

Found In

used in thousands of processed foods including: candy, soft drinks, baked goods, gelatin desserts, ice cream, pudding, cereal. Also used in cosmetics and drugs.

Possible Health Effects

A wide variety of health effects have been reported including: asthma, hyperactivity, hives, swelling of lips and tongue, tumors, and birth defects in animals. See individual FD&C color, for specific health effects.

Allergy Information

May cause allergic reaction in sensitive individuals

In The News

In December 2008, the European Union took action to require special labeling on foods containing any of 6 different artificial food colorings. The warning label states that the food "may have an adverse effect on activity and attention in children" and the mandate went into effect on July 20, 2010.

Online Resources/Related

Print Resources

Copyright August 4, 2010 Be Food Smart, Updated March 8, 2011

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