“Colouring Foods” are food ingredients used by the food industry for the primary purpose of imparting colour to food and beverage products. They are manufactured from fruits, vegetables, flowers, spices, algae and/or other edible source materials.

The criteria for a food extract with colouring properties to be classified as “Colouring Foods” (and not as food colour additive) are:

  • the primary extract is added during the manufacturing of compound foods with the primary effect to deliver colour to the compound food. If the primary extract is used because of its aromatic, sapid or nutritive properties together with a secondary colouring effect, the primary extract is either a food or a flavouring;
  • the source material must be a food or a characteristic ingredient of food which is normally consumed as such within the EU; and
  • the pigments present in the source material must NOT undergo selective, physical and/or chemical extraction relative to the nutritive and aromatic constituents.

NATCOL developed a Code of Practice to describe current industry practice and to provide support for the classification, manufacturing, use and labelling of Colouring Foods to producers and users (i.e. food industry) of Colouring Foods on the European Union market (EU), thereby helping to ensure consistency, transparency and harmonisation of practices.

This Code is intended to serve as a Business to Business support tool and must be read in conjunction with the appropriate legislation (listed in the table found in Chapter 3 of this Code), particularly Regulation (EC) No 1333/2008 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 16 December 2008 on food additives, especially Recital 5, Article 3 (2) (a) and Annex I (2) of this Regulation.

Labelling of “Colouring Foods” has to be in accordance with Food Information Regulation (EU) No 1169/2011. The labelling needs to be clear and understandable to the consumer and should not be misleading. However, the labelling must be assessed case-by-case by the food manufacturer. Possible labelling on the ingredient list of the final food within the EU are for example “colouring food (carrot concentrate)” or “carrot concentrate”. “Colouring Foods” do not need to be designated like food colour additives, i.e. by the name of their category “Colour” and an E-number.

“Colouring Foods” are an alternative to food colour additives in case food producers/customers want a food product which is based on ingredients that consumers can easily relate to.

For additional information, please refer to the following links:

  • NATCOL Code of Practice for the Classification, Manufacturing, Use and Labelling of Colouring Foods
    NATCOL code of practice
  • NATCOL’s Position on the SCoPAFF Opinion on plant extracts with a technological function in relation to “Colouring Foods”
    NATCOL Position Paper