Pp. 120-153 (34)
Natália Martins and Isabel C.F.R. Ferreira
The world of food colorants has experienced a very exciting development in
the last few years. The demand for increasingly organoleptic appealing, a safer, secure
and healthy foodstuff is evident for consumers. Among them, the health-promoting
ability of food products containing colouring agents is considered the most important.
Linked with this, natural food colorants have been proposed as the most promising and
safe alternatives. Numerous side effects and related toxicity have been increasingly
associated with the consumption of synthetic colorants, some being already forbidden,
while for others, the adequate daily intake (ADI) was re-adjusted. Thus, the aim of the
present chapter is to provide an overview on the field of food colouring agents, namely
highlighting the currently available natural and synthetic sources of colouring agents,
the main representative groups and corresponding physicochemical properties,
legislation and regulatory practices, and finally the latest pharmacokinetic data.
Phenolic compounds, including anthocyanins, carotenoids, and betalains, comprise the
most commonly used food colouring agents from natural origin. At the same time,
increasingly strict regulatory practices have been applied for the quality assurance of
those from natural and synthetic origins. Naturally-derived food colorants seem to have
higher quality and efficiency than those from synthetic sources, apart from playing a
significant role as health promoters. Concerning synthetic food colorants, due to the
increase in the reported side effects and toxicity, they have been progressively
substituted by those obtained from natural origin. Allergic reactions, behavioral and
neurocognitive effects are among the most frequent side effects, both at medium and
Overall, a marked change in attitude and priorities has been observed in consumers, not
only related to food and nutrition science, but also pharmaceutical, nutraceutical and
cosmetic industries. It drives manufacturers to find new, natural and healthy sources of
colors and flavors and other organoleptic attributes for the currently marketed food
Colorant additives, Health-related impact, Natural pigments,
Organoleptic features, Synthetic pigments.
Centro de Investigação de Montanha (CIMO), Instituto Politécnico de Bragança, 5300- 253Bragança, Portugal.