Food Coloring

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A chemical or natural additive that is used to enhance or alter the color of a food being processed or prepared. Food coloring may be a dye, a pigment or a substance made for use with foods and approved (certified) for use by government agencies, such as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the U.S. There are 9 different color additives approved in the U.S. by the FDA which include: 3 shades of red, 2 shades of blue, 2 shades of yellow, and 1 shade each of green and orange. They are identified as either a "dye" or a "lake". Dyes may be powders, liquids, granules, or other types that can be dissolved with water or liquids during the food processing. Dyes are the most common variety of food coloring used in homes for altering the color of foods being prepared. Lake additives are not dissolvable in water and are therefore, most often used for products lacking moisture. Oils and fat-base products such as cake mixes, candies, and chewing gums are examples of foods requiring lake additives.

In addition to chemical additives, foods can also be colored with natural additives, which do not require certification from the FDA. Natural coloring is provided when berries, grapes, or the juices of the fruits are added to beverages or when sugar is heated to produce a caramel color for desserts and sauces. A wide variety of food manufacturers, chefs, and food preparers use color additives to make baked goods, cereals, condiments, desserts, dairy products, confections, and numerous other food items more attractive in appearance.

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