Colouring is added to foods for a number of different reasons. It can be added to food to:
Make it more appealing
Bring back the natural colours that may have been lost during food processing
Enhance the natural colours or to make the colour’s more ‘even’
Support the taste and enhancing the flavour perception of a food
What is the difference between natural and synthetic colours?
Food colouring with natural substances has been used since approximately 1500 B.C. Natural food colours (dyes) are generally made from the colours found in plants and minerals. Some common natural sources of food colouring include, lycopene (which gives tomatoes their red colour), anthocyanins (which gives berries their purple colour), turmeric (yellow/gold), carotenoids (the yellow in carrots and pumpkin) and betanin (the red found in beetroot).
In the 1800s, synthetic dyes emerged which were made from petroleum or coal. This sparked the regulation of synthetic food colourings across many countries in the world, to ensure they were safe to use. Over the years, some food colours have been linked to health implications and they have since been banned for use within the New Zealand market. Synthetic (artificial) colours are often cheaper and more stable than their natural dye counterparts.