Alternatives to those artificial FD&C food colorants

Annu Rev Food Sci Technol. 2012;3:59-77. doi: 10.1146/annurev-food-022811-101118. Epub 2011 Nov 10.


Replacement of artificial food dyes with natural colorants is a current marketing trend, notwithstanding the fact that neither the United States nor the European Union (EU) has defined natural with respect to food colors. Consumer groups have concerns over the safety of synthetic colorants, and in addition, many of the naturally derived colorants provide health benefits. Food scientists frequently have the assignment of replacing artificial colorants with natural alternatives. This can be challenging, as naturally derived colorants are usually less stable, and all desired hues might, in fact, not be obtainable. In this review, the chemical and physical properties, limitations, and more suitable applications for those colorants that are legally available as substitutes for the synthetic colorants are summarized. Issues and challenges for certain foods are discussed, and in addition, colorants that may be available in the future are briefly described.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Coloring Agents / adverse effects
  • Coloring Agents / chemistry
  • Food Additives / adverse effects
  • Food Additives / chemistry*
  • Food Safety
  • Food Technology* / trends
  • Pigments, Biological / adverse effects
  • Pigments, Biological / chemistry*


  • Coloring Agents
  • Food Additives
  • Pigments, Biological