Artificial colors and aromas improve the flavor and color appearance of the product. This time we will not wonder how they affect health – we will look at the methods of their production. 

Detailed information on the production methods of dyes and flavors are protected by intellectual property rights as know-how. Nevertheless, some information in this area is publicly disclosed, as part of the generally available knowledge, even for those who study in this field. 


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Artificial additives are created in the laboratory 

The basic difference between natural and synthetic food additives is the changed chemical structure. The colors of food dyes can be the same, just like the aromas of flavors. However, if you look at their chemical composition, you can see significant differences. The method of combining chemical compounds in such a way as to obtain the right aroma is the secret of the aroma-producing company. The same applies to dyes. Chemical plants that produce food additives are inspected. When assessing the conformity of production methods with the applicable standards, account is taken, inter alia 

Law on food and nutrition safety 

Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on flavorings and certain food ingredients with flavoring properties for use in and on foodstuffs 

European Parliament and Council Regulation on food additives 

Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on additives for use in animal nutrition 

Artificial aromas on carriers 

The aroma produced in the laboratory is then transferred to a carrier. Due to their form, you can distinguish between liquid and powder aromas. Liquid aromas are differentiated into ethanol, oil and glycol. In the first case, the carrier is rectified spirit. Interestingly, he is exempt from excise duty. Oil aromas are prepared on the basis of vegetable oil, while glycolic oils – based on 1,2-propylene glycol or triacetin. The second type of synthetic aromas – powder aromas are produced in a slightly different way. The aromas are closed in the technological process in maltodextrin and gum arabic. 

Synthetic dyes better than natural 

Artificial dyes are obtained in the chemical synthesis process. By way of example, one can point to brilliant blue, allura red, azorubin, amaranth, patent blue, cochineal red (not to be confused with natural carmine), tartrazine, quinoline yellow and indigotine. Synthetic dyes can be created using such chemicals as 




calcium carbonate 

titanium dioxide 

iron oxides and hydroxides 

From the perspective of a producer of food using dyes, the use of artificial coloring substances may turn out to be more beneficial. Natural dyes obtained in the extraction process from plant or animal raw materials are susceptible to degradation under the influence of light, temperature and processing. In contrast to natural substances coloring artificial dyes are characterized by 

better durability 

higher resistance to environmental conditions 

lower price 

high dyeing power 

There is basically just one argument for the interest in natural dyes among food producers – natural colorants are preferred by consumers. 

Dyes from the Southampton group 

EU standards have treated the so-called Southampton group dyes. The term refers to the research carried out by a team of researchers in Southampton. The consequence of the publication of the results obtained was the introduction from July 2010 of an obligation to include a warning on the product labels. If a product contains even one of the colourants belonging to this group, it must be marked that the food item may have a detrimental effect on the activity and attention in children. This obligation also covers producers of dyes. The coloring substances of the Southampton group include 


quinoline yellow 

orange yellow 


cochineal red 

allura red 

Do not we have to be afraid? 

Although the method of producing artificial food additives is largely shrouded in secrecy, food technologists calm down – we have nothing to fear. Standards regarding the amount and type of additives used are very restrictive. The only question is, how can we be sure that all producers comply with them. We have no guarantee, and standards only indicate how to deal with aromas and dyes obtained synthetically, and not how to proceed. Therefore, regardless of the position of the government or the environment of technologists, highly processed products containing synthetic additives instead of natural ones, it is better to avoid. 

The law can not keep up with toxicological knowledge 

The safety of using artificial food additives does not depend only on whether the producers use them in accordance with the law. Other factors are also important, including the influence of toxicological knowledge on standards. The process of establishing new EU standards and their implementation at the national level is a procedure lasting at least a dozen or so months. Hence, the law is not able to keep up with the toxicological knowledge. The second problem is that not always up-to-date toxicological knowledge reflects the actual safety of coloring and flavoring substances. Only long-term research can give different results. Until more than a dozen years ago ADHD was not associated with the adverse effects of dyes. There was also no hypothesis about the fact that children may be excessively absorbed by artificial coloring substances from food. 

Other issues include the effective operation of systems and institutions ensuring food and nutrition safety, as well as ongoing monitoring of the collection of artificial additives against a background of safe doses. A cyclical assessment of the safety of additional substances admitted to trade is also very important. It is enough that one element from the cycle of interrelated factors described above will not work properly, so that the safety of the use of food additives obtained in laboratories by synthesis will be reduced. A separate issue is the hypersensitivity of the body to artificial food additives (even for a small amount allowed by standards), but this is a topic for another article. 



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