Natural Vs Artificial Food Colorings

Brilliant blue, sunset yellow, citrus red, indigo carmine… These are the colors that you can find in most foods, be it fruit juices, candies, ice cream or your favourite cordial, but do you know most of these colors are the results of the addition of artificial food colorants?

Living organisms are made to be attracted by colorful things, so as we, humans. Apart from the foods, such as fruits and vegetables that are naturally colored, almost all processed foods are added with coloring agents to enhance their appearance.

Natural vs Artificial Food Colorants

Natural Colorants

Most of the plant products are naturally appeared with attractive colors and can be used as food colorants, especially fruits and vegetables. For instance, the addition of dragon fruit, strawberry, raspberry, tomatoes and beet root may cause food to appear pink or red, while the addition of carrot, saffron and paprika may give orange appearance. The bioactive in plant products, such as anthocyanidins, carotenoids, chlorophylls and flavonoids are known to be the coloring agents that give them their vibrant colors.

Artificial Colorants

In contrast, artificial food colorants are produced synthetically in chemical laboratories. Here are some of the synthetic food colorants that are commonly used in foods:

Synthetic colorants are often added to snacks and soft drinks to enhance their appearances and increase their attractiveness.

Product Synthetic Colorant
Candies E102
Sugus Gummy Mixed Fruit Flavored Gummy E129, E102, E133
ADACHI Mix Jelly E102, E110, E124, E133
Welch’s Fruit Snacks Mixed Fruit E129, E102, E133
Cookies/ Biscuits
ARNOTT’S Strawberry Tartlets E110, E129, E100, E133
KRAFT RITZ Sandwich Cracker Lemon Flavor E160a
Marui Suzuki Animal Shape Biscuit E127, E102, E133, E150a
Kellogg’s Pop Tarts Toaster Pastries Frosted Strawberry E150a, E129, E110
Soft drink
Fanta Orange E110
MIRINDA Orange Flavored Carbonated Soft Drink E102, E110
Sunkist Sparkling Orange Juice Drink E110, E102
Welch’s Sparkling Grape Soda E129, E133

Is it safe to consume food colorants?

Besides desirable visual benefits, the functional compounds that naturally occurred in plants are known to provide numerous pharmacological properties to humans and act as strong antioxidants that prevent the body cells from oxidative damage caused by free radicals. This, in turn, contributes to anti-inflammatory, antimutagenic, antineoplastic and antiarthritic effects through regular consumption.
Even though natural food colorants are not necessarily safe to be consumed, they are safer than artificial ones. Various studies found that artificial food colorants give potential toxicological effects on human health, including but not limited to

• allergies
• asthma
• genotoxic effects
• carcinogenic effects
• liver and kidney damage
• hypersensitive reactions
• behavioural effects, such as hyperactive and learning disabilities in children

Bottom Line

While artificial food colorants may be attractive in food preparations due to their convenience, low price and desirable results, you should consider using natural food colorants in place of synthetic ones to prevent negative health consequences.


Okafor, S.N., Obonga, W., Ezeokonkwo, M.A., Nurudeen, J., Orovwigho, U., & Ahiabuike, J. (2016). Assessment of the Health implications of Synthetic and Natural Food Colourants – A Critical Review. Pharmaceutical and Biosciences JournaL. doi:

Oplatowska-Stachowiak, M., & Elliott, C. T. (2015). Food colors: Existing and emerging food safety concerns. Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition, 57(3), 524–548. doi:10.1080/10408398.2014.889652

Ramesh, M., & Muthuraman, A. (2018). Flavoring and Coloring Agents: Health Risks and Potential Problems. Natural and Artificial Flavoring Agents and Food Dyes, 1–28. doi:10.1016/b978-0-12-811518-3.00001-6