FSSAI Regulations on the Use of Food Colours and Flavors

The effects of colour on food are tremendous as colour plays a crucial role in the visual perception of the food we eat along with other elements like flavours. The appearance and aroma of the food produce a craving for it and colour is a major factor that affects the appearance of food. Colouring and […]

The effects of colour on food are tremendous as colour plays a crucial role in the visual perception of the food we eat along with other elements like flavours. The appearance and aroma of the food produce a craving for it and colour is a major factor that affects the appearance of food. Colouring and flavouring agents are extensively used food additives to attract consumers towards the product. In India, only those colours and flavours are permitted for use in Food Products which have been approved by the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI). FSSAI has various standards for food colours and flavours, which have been listed in the Chapter 3 – Substances Added to Food of the Food Safety and Standards (Food Product Standards and Food Additives) Regulations, 2011.

FSSAI-Approved Food Colours and Their Standards

FSSAI has given a green signal to various colours as safe to be used in foods, but they have to fulfil specific criteria to be used as a food additive. Following are some food colours and their standard requirements stated as per the FSSAI guidelines:

  1. Erythrosine: It imparts the food a red colour and should fulfil the below-listed FSSAI-prescribed requirements:
  2. The total dye content of the sample dried at 105±1°C for two hours should be not less than (NLT) 87% by mass.
  3. Loss on drying (LOD) at 135°C should not be more (NMT) than 13% by mass.
  4. Water-insoluble content should be NMT 0.2% by mass.
  5. Ether extractable matter should be NMT 0.2% by mass.
  6. Inorganic iodide as sodium iodide should be NMT 0.1% by mass.
  7. Other subsidiary colouring matters except fluorescein should be NMT 4% by mass. Fluorescein should be NMT 20 mg/kg.
  8. Organic compounds except colouring matter should be NMT 0.2% by mass.
  9. Lead, arsenic, zinc, and heavy metals should be NMT 10, 3, 50 and 40 mg/kg respectively.
  10. The food should be completely free from copper, mercury, and chromium. It should also be free from aromatic nitro compounds, cyanides, aromatic hydrocarbons and aromatic amines.
  11. β-carotene: It is commonly called C.I. natural yellow 26 and belongs to the class of carotenoids. It contains all trans-β-carotene; no cis β-carotene should be present. The general requirements of this compound can be divided into two different types as follows:
  12. Spectrophotometric requirement: The absorption maxima in cyclohexane in a 1 cm cell should be in the region of 456 to 484 µm. No peaks at 330 to 355 µm should be observed as it represents a cis peak.
  13. Colour reaction: β-carotene should have a purity of NLT 96%. The other requirements are:
  • Arsenic should be NMT 3 parts per million (ppm)
  • Lead should be NMT 10 ppm
  • Heavy metal content should be NMT 40 ppm
  • Subsidiary colouring matter should be NMT 3% by mass
  • Sulphated ash and total colouring matter should be NMT 0.1%
  1. Chlorophyll: Chlorophyll, also known as C. I. Natural green 3, is a plant-based green pigment is used as a colouring material for foods.

The following tests confirm that chlorophyll fulfils the requirements for being able to be used in food items:

  1. Identification test: A chlorophyll solution in ethanol should produce blue colour with deep red fluorescence.
  2. Brown phase reaction: When 10% methanolic potassium hydroxide is added to the solution of chlorophyll made with green ether or petroleum ether, it should turn brown and then back to green quickly. This test does not give a positive result if the chlorophyll is treated with alkalis.
  3. Limits for metallic impurities in chlorophyll are:
  • Arsenic should be NMT 3 ppm
  • Lead should be NMT 10 ppm
  • Copper should be NMT 30 ppm
  • Zinc should be NMT 50 ppm
  1. Total combined phaeophytines and their magnesium complexes should be NMT 10% by weight.
  2. The level of residual solvents like methanol, ethanol, acetone, 2-propanol, and hexane should be NMT 50 mg/kg. The residual solvent content of dichloromethane should be NMT 10%.
  3. Riboflavin: It is yellow to orange-yellow and approved for the use in food products as a colourant. It should fulfil the following requirements if it has to be safely used in food:
  4. Identification test: 1% riboflavin solution in water should be pale greenish yellow in transmitted light; it should have deep yellowish green fluorescence. This intense fluorescence should disappear on the addition of mineral acids or bases and sodium dithionite.
  5. Spectrophotometry: Maximum absorption of an aqueous solution of riboflavin should be in the region of 220 to 225, 266, 371, and 444 μm.
  6. Total minimum purity of riboflavin: 97%
  7. Maximum limit of metallic impurities:
    • Arsenic should be NMT 5 ppm
    • Lead should be NMT 20 ppm

Other than the above discussed colours, FSSAI has also listed standards for colours such as Tartrazine, Sunset Yellow, Indigo Carmine, Caramel, Annatto etc. Standards also exists for Synthetic Food Colour – Preparation and Mixtures.

FSSAI-Approved Flavouring Agents

FSSAI has defined the Flavours in three types, which are:

  1. Natural Flavours and Natural Flavouring Substances
  2. Nature-Identical Flavouring Substances
  3. Artificial Flavouring Substances

The Flavours may be added to food as per the Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP). The flavouring substances agents may contain permitted emulsifying agents, stabilising agents, antioxidants, and anti-caking agents. Synthetic amorphous silicon dioxide (INS 551) may be used in powder flavouring substances to a maximum level of 2 percent.

The FSSAI regulations prohibits the use of the following flavouring agents in any article of food, namely,-

  1. Coumarin and dihydrocoumarin;
  2. Tonkabean (Dipteryl adorat);
  3. β-asarone and cinamyl anthracilate
  4. Estragole
  5. Ethyl methyl ketone
  6. Ethyl-3-phenylglycidate
  7. Eugenyl methyl ether
  8. Methyl β napthyl ketone
  9. p-Propylanisole
  10. Saffrole and isosaffrole
  11. Thujone and isothujone (α & β thujone)

Diethyleneglycol and monoethyl ether shall not be used as solvent in flavours.

Following are the standard requirements of some of the flavouring agents approved as per the FSSAI guidelines:

  1. Lactulose syrup: It may be useful in milk-based formulations for infants only on the advice of a physician. It should be NMT 0.5% of the final food. It should be specified on the label. It can also be used in bakery products with a maximum limit of 0.5% by weight.
  2. Trehalose: Trehalose can be used in the following foods with complete label specifications:
Name of the product Maximum limit
Snacks and savouries 0.5% to 1.0%
Candies, icings, sweets and confectionaries 5.0% to 7.5%
Pasta, noodles and macaroni products 0.5% to 5.0%
Biscuits, cakes, bread and breakfast cereals 0.5% to 10.0%
Milk product–based and carbohydrate-based sweets like peda, rasgulla and gulabjamun 0.5% to 20.0%
Carbonated water, processed fruits, jam, jelly, fruit cheese, fruit juices, dairy-based drinks, milk powder 0.5% to 20.0%

Other than the above discussed flavours, FSSAI has also listed standards for flavours such as Oligofructose, Phyto or Plant Stenol and Phyto or Plant Sterol.

Adhering to the guidelines for the addition of colours and flavours is mandatory and will maintain the quality of the food along with making it more appealing to the customers.

References:

The Food Safety and Standards (Food Product Standards and Food Additives) Regulations, 2011 (Pg no: 503-507, 512, 513, 529, 530). Published by Food Safety and Standards Authority of India, New Delhi – https://www.fssai.gov.in/dam/jcr:99067191-c774-4c81-b9c8-708b9e72b770/Food_Additives_Regulations.pdf

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