Palette of Our Palates: A Brief History of Food Coloring and Its Regulation

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Food color additives are vital to how we taste and perceive food, yet they generally remain mysterious to the public. This article examines food color additives from historical and regulatory perspectives. First, it uses recent examples to illustrate the importance of colors to our enjoyment of food. It then recounts the early history of food colors and the emergence of regulation to prevent their unsafe and fraudulent uses. The margarine war of the late 19th and early 20th centuries is described, as well as the 1906 and 1938 Food and Drug Acts. The article then enters the modern era of color additive regulation, beginning with the Color Additive Amendments of 1960. The debate over the Delaney anti-cancer clause is assessed, as well as other recent safety and regulatory controversies. The article asserts that this string of incidents has gained public notoriety for color additives. The article concludes by discussing the future of food coloring and the move towards more natural dyes.

Adam Burrows
Comprehensive Reviews in Food Science and Food Safety