Edible Dyes: Definition, Types, Properties and Applications

Definition of Edible Dyes

Edible Dyes

Dyes that impart color when it is added to food or drink and can be consumed, are known as edible dyes. They come in many forms like powders, gels, and pastes and can be used in drinks, cookies, candies, etc.

Types of Edible Dyes

Based on the source, edible dyes are further classified into two types is Natural edible dyes and Synthetic edibles dyes.

1. Natural Edible Dyes

Dyes that are obtained from natural sources like plants, leaves, flowers, seeds, roots, and animals are called natural dyes. Since they are obtained from natural sources, so there will be no harm to use natural edible dyes in preparing attractive food.

Natural edible dyes also contain vitamins that are very essential for the body. Adding these ayes in food does not affect the taste of food and makes the food look more attractive.

Examples of natural edible dyes are Annatto, Turmeric, Carmine, Paprika, etc.

2. Synthetic Edible Dyes

Dyes that are obtained from petroleum-derived substances and chemicals are known as synthetic edible dyes. Since they are obtained from petroleum products, safety of these dyes is highly controversial.

Over the years, Synthetic edible dyes are used in food are found to be toxic. Now, a only handful of artificial dyes are used in food. 

These dyes can cause problems like hyperactivity in children, allergic reactions, and even cancer. So, it is always advisable to avoid food containing synthetic edible dyes which are harmful to health.

Examples of synthetic edible dyes are Red No. 3 (Erythrosine), Yellow No. 5 (Tartrazine), Blue No. 1 (Brilliant Blue), etc.

Properties of Edible Dyes

  1. Edible dyes are usually ionic solid. When one of these solids dissolves in water, the ions are released into the solution and get associated with polar water molecules. Thus, imparting color.
  2. Edible dye molecules can absorb some wavelengths of light and let others pass through, resulting in the color we see.
  3. Edible dyes only impart color to food and do not change their chemical structure, taste, or smell.
  4. Some Edible dyes like turmeric have anti-microbial properties which protect food from microbial attacks.

Applications of Edible Dyes

  1. They are used to a color variety of food items like candy, soft drinks, sauces, soups, ice cream, cereal, etc.
  2. They are also used to balance the pH of the food which gets disturbed by adding acidic or basic material.
  3. They open the doors for food exploration that is new fun foods can be made by using different edible dyes which appeal to more customers.
  4. They are used to increase the shelf life of food products.


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