Food Coloring BAN in the UK but Usage Continues for USA

Food colors are additives which occur naturally or produced synthetically to be . They are prepared in the form of liquids, gases and as well as powder forms, though many have also been prepared as pastes. The use of dyes and colors has been adopted in imparting colors to foods commercially and locally in domestic food preparations. However, widespread use of dyes in food, cosmetic and pharmaceutical applications has raised questions about their safety levels [1].

The use of dyes as food coloring agents have many other functions such as being used as a flavor, simulation of color associated with the perception of the consumers. For instance, strawberry coloring in soft drinks, red dyes for drinks to simulate red cherries [2]. Colors may also be used to offset loss of color as a result of the reaction with light, moisture and sometimes as a result of change in temperature. It is also used to enhance the natural color, boost attractiveness of food and make it more appetizing. It has also been used in branding of products with their colors for sweets, medicines and other products.

Ban of Food Coloring in History

The use of the food additives has a long history since early renaissance in 1500BC in the Egyptian cities. Wine and natural color extracts were used in improving the appearance of food. In the wake of urbanization, the most lucrative trade was in the import of precious spices and colors. The first ban on food colors was initiated in 1531, when Germany burned the use of Saffron Counterfeit as a food color. Heavymetals were also incorporated in the adulteration of foods as cheap and available options [3]. For instance, red lead was used in the coloration of cheese, and other confectionaries. Copper arsenite was also used in coloring of tea leaves forreuse which led to death of two people in 1860. Adulterated lozenges used in 1851 led to death of about 200 people as a result of poisoning in England. However, in 1856, the first synthetic food color was prepared by Sir William H. Perkin which was used in US, Europe and other places as a food color [4].

Today’s Regulation

Only natural food colors are not regulated by the FDA, but every country may have their own regulation on the use of natural food colors. However, the Code of Federal regulation lists products that are subject to certification and those exempt from certification [5]. However, these approvals are subject to the safety standards for their use in foods and other applications [6].

Food Color Use in UK and USA

In 2008, a ruling was passed banning the use of the specific food colors in the UK [7]. This followed allegations that the artificial food colors used have promoted health problems in children [8]. Consequently, the UK Food Standards Agency has called for the ban on the use of six foods coloring in the preparation of ingestible products such as foods and drinks since they have been associated with promoting hyperactivity in children [8].

The basis of the ban on use of the six food coloring follows recommendations made by research conducted at Southampton University. The research recommended that the food products be banned by 2009. This has also promoted the ban within the larger EU region on use of six food colors.

It is now proven that UK has been able to implement the policy on the ban of the six food colors from use in food preparations. The main colors banned includes: E110[Yellow #6], E104, E122, E129[Red# 40], E102[Yellow # 5] and E124 [4R (Ponceau)]

The ban affected the manufacturing of the food products in the UK by giant food manufacturers such as Cadbury and Haribo producing some of the most popular confectionary brands in the UK using banned food coloring [9]. The UK has proposed the use of natural food colors as additives for foods and drinks.

The ban has been significantly supported by initiatives such as Children’s Food campaigns following the recommendation from the undisputed Southampton’s study. The main argument has been that since there have been no disputes on the ban of artificial additives suggesting that they do not cause health problems to children; therefore they should be banned [7].

Despite the ban in the UK, the US continues to use the banned products even with further research findings in the US and Australia suggesting the association between the use of artificial food colors with behavioral problems and hyperactivity among the children [10]. The US has legalized the use of the Yellow colors #5 and #6, Red #3 and #40, Blue colors for #1and #2, green #3 and finally orange B colors. However, whistleblowers in Washington DC have raised warning over the use of dyes and asked the Federal Government to make a ban on their use in the US. The US companies operating in the UK have also been accused of double standards in their operation as a result of the ban in the UK, but being used in the US. The banned dyes have been shown to be prevalent in McDonald’s Strawberries and Blue berry waffles which have red 40 and Blue 2 dyes banned in the UK.

Other research findings have suggested that the use of dye’s are associated with allergies, migraines headaches and possibly cancer in children, in addition to the changes in the behavioral characteristics [11]. The chemicals are prevalent in the eerie bright hues, cheese, children breakfast cereals, candy and as well as soft drinks used by children [10].

In the United States, there have been legal battles over the use of synthetic banned food dyes by Kraft Foods Group Inc. by two mothers. The two women wanted Kraft to adopt safer natural food coloring in the making of food products as practiced in many other countries such as the UK but declined to adopt the use of the natural food dyes [12].

BVO is abbreviated for brominated vegetable oil; it has been used in flavored drinks such as mountain Dew and many other sports drink. BVO has been known as a retardant for flames and has been associated to the development of neurological problems and impairment of the levels of thyroid hormones in the body [10]. BVO has been banned in the UK and the entire EU countries together with India and Japan [10]. However, it is still being used in the US. [10]


The use of synthetic food color has always been a problem since their discovery to date. The biggest challenge to the use of synthetic food dyes has always been their safety for use. In the UK, the ban for six food colors was affected and replicated in the EU countries. However, they continue to be used in the US raising concerns about the food safety for children in the US

Reference list

  1. (2010). Food Ingredients and Colors: International Food Information Council.. Retrieved from the web address:
  2. Jeannine, D. (2003). The impact of perceptual interaction on perceived flavors. Food Quality and Preference14 (2): 137–146.
  3. Meggos, H. (1995). Food colors: an international perspective. The Manufacturing Confectioner. pp. 59–65.
  4. Arlt, U. (2011). The Legislation of Food colors in Europe. The Natural Food Colors Association. Retrieved from web address: .
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  5. Barrows, J. N.,Lipman, A. L.,andBailey, C. J. (2009). Color Additives: FDA’s regulatory process and Historical Perspectives. FDA. Retrieved from web address:
  6. Downham, A., and Collins, P. (2000). Coloring our foods in the last and next millennium. International Journal of Food Science and Technology (Blackwell Science Ltd) 35: 5–22. Retrieved from the web address: .
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  7. Cook, J. (2013). Colorants Compliance. The World of Food Ingredients (Arnhem, Netherlands: CNS Media BV) 41–43.
  8. Hassel, A.H. (1960). Pure Food and Pure Food Legislation. Butterworths, London
  9. Ivann, Penn (2008). Banned in the U.K., food dyes are U.S. staple. Retrieved from the web address: .
    Accessed on 22nd Oct 2014
  10. Sagon, C (2013). 8 Foods we eat that other Countries Ban. Retrieved from the web address: .
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  11. Soltan, S., Shehata, S.A., and Manal M.E.M. ( 2012).The Effects of Using Color Foods of Children on Immunity Properties and Liver, Kidney on Rats. Food and Nutrition Sciences (Scientific Research) 3 (7): 897–904.
    Retrieved from the web address: .
    Accessed on 22nd Oct 2014.
  12. James SD. Mom to Kraft: Take Yellow Dye Out of Mac and Cheese. ABC News. 2013. Retrieved from the web address:
    Accessed on 22nd Oct 2014.