Color Dye and Lake

FD&C Dyes and Lakes

Food color that is used in the United States is either "Artificial" (also referred to as "Certified Color" or "FD&C Color" ) or so called “Natural Color”.

Each batch of artificial color that is produced for use in food, drug or cosmetic applications in the United States must be submitted to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for “Certification” to insure that it meets the government’s predefined standards. Hence the term “Certified Color”.

Certified "FD&C" Colors can generally be used in Foods, Drugs, and Cosmetics.

Certified "D&C" Colors can be used in Drugs and Cosmetics, but not in Foods.

The following section is dedicated to FD&C Colors for use in food products:

While there is significant interest in “Natural” colors, most food and confectionery products available today are made using FD&C food color. There are only seven Certified Dyes that can be used in the United States in food products:

FD&C Dye Shade
(when dissolved in water)
FD&C Red 3 Pink shade
FD&C Red 40 Red shade
FD&C Yellow 5 Yellow shade
FD&C Yellow 6 Orange shade
FD&C Blue 1 Sky Blue shade
FD&C Blue 2 Dark Blue shade
FD&C Green 3* Bluish Green shade

*Note: FD&C Green 3 is rarely used for several reasons

  • It is much more expensive than any of the other FD&C Dyes.
  • It is not really a “Green” shade. It's more of an aqua.
  • If a Green 3 shade is required, it can easily be matched using a blend of Yellow 5 and Blue 1 at a fraction of the cost.
  • Pretty much any shade can be achieved by the knowledgeable blending  two or more of the above Dyes.

Dyes and Aluminum Lakes in Powder Form

The base for all FD&C food colors are DYES and ALUMINUM LAKES. These are produced in a light, dusty powdery format.

The differences between Dyes and Lakes are as follows:

  • A DYE is a distinct chemical that exhibits coloring power when it is dissolved. Dyes are water soluble, and will not mix with oils. Most Dyes can be purchased in a Powder format or a less dusty version called "Granular".
  • An ALUMINUM LAKE PIGMENT is an insoluble material that tints by dispersion. Lakes are produced from the FD&C Dyes and are oil dispersible (but generally not oil soluble) and thus can be mixed with oils and fats. They can also be dispersed or suspended in other carriers such as propylene glycol, glycerin and sucrose (water and sugar).
  • Lakes are produced in specific concentrations of the Dye used. Thus, Red 40 Aluminum Lake is available in Low Dye (generally 15-17% pure dye) and High Dye (36-42% pure dye).

Lakes are preferred in a variety of applications, such as:

  • To color a fat based product, such as chocolate or compound coatings. For these, we produce a concentrated dispersion in a high quality and very stable vegetable oil. The dispersion is added directly to the chocolate to dye it accordingly.
  • For “hard panning” (to dye the outside of a product such as a gum ball, an M&M™ type product, or a pill). In this case, we produce a dispersion usually using sucrose (sugar and water)
  • Lakes tend to resist bleeding. Dyes have a tendency to “bleed”, or migrate from one part of the product to another. This can be a problem in candy canes or any product where there are defined borders such as stripes. While Dyes are normally used in hard candy, Lakes are sometimes substituted if bleeding is a problem.

Summary of FD&C Powder Dyes          Summary of FD&C Aluminum Lakes

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