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Industry Issues Index Access Restricted

Last Updated: December 20, 2013

Topic: Colors


Colors are an important component of many foods, including confections. Colors provide distinguishing characteristics, flavor recognition and visual appeal, and colors have been regularly added to foods for decades. All food colors used in food production in the U.S. are carefully produced to meet stringent FDA requirements and are safe for human consumption.


Color additives are defined as any dye, pigment or substance that is capable of imparting color. FDA regulates color additives in foods and classifies colors as either certified or exempt from certification. Certified colors are synthetically produced, while colors that are exempt from certification are derived from natural sources. Both certified colors and those exempt from certification must undergo a rigorous approval process that includes thorough toxicology safety studies.

Some consumers have concerns about colors added to foods and health beyond traditional safety measures. For example, a 2006 study published in the journal Lancet raised concerns that artificial colors may influence the behavior of children. However, upon review by the FDA, European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and the UK Committee on Toxicology, all agencies concluded that the evidence surrounding artificial colors and hyperactivity is not conclusive and that changes to the regulation of these colors was not appropriate.

Still, consumers who choose to avoid artificial colors can identify colors on the ingredient deck of all food labeled for sale in the U.S. To provide consumers with even more alternatives, confectionery companies are investing in research and development of new natural colors that can be used to color candy.

For more information read this FDA overview of food ingredients, additives & colors.

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