Labeling of Colors

US Labeling

All color additives, whether certified or exempt, are considered artificial for labeling purposes in the United States, and the addition of color to a product must be identified on the label (e.g., “artificial color,” “color added”). Use of the term “natural color” is not permitted, as the FDA has not defined the term “natural.” The agency has long considered it to mean that nothing artificial or synthetic, including colors regardless of source, has been included in or added to a product that would not normally be expected to be present.

EU Labeling

In Europe, all food additives are given labeling codes commonly referred to as “E-numbers,” e.g., Allura Red is labeled as E129. Since 2010, the EU has also required a warning label for the Southampton colors, saying that they may have effects on activity and attention in children.

While the EU has required a warning label for the colors included in the McCann et al. study, this requirement was not based on adequate scientific evidence or on the opinion of EFSA, but instead on a political decision taken by members of the European Parliament who chose to forsake the EFSA opinion of the safety of the colors and respond to the emotionally charged public. Consumers, including children, are not in any way at risk from the presence of color additives in foods and therefore a warning label is completely unnecessary and will instead likely confuse consumers by indicating cause for concern where none exists.

IACM does not support a warning for colors on ingredient labels. Governments should make regulatory decisions based on sound science, rather than respond to emotionally charged requests or political pressure.