Quinoline Yellow

Quinoline yellow


Quinoline yellow is a food additive with an E number of 104. Additives with E numbers between 100 and 199 are generally used as food dyes.

Other names for Quinoline yellow include:

  • Food Yellow 13
  • D&C Yellow No. 10
  • Acid Yellow 3
  • Quinidine Yellow KT
  • Japan Yellow 203
  • Lemon Yellow ZN 3
  • C.I. 47005
picture of a yellow-green splash - quinoline yellow

Quinoline Yellow Provides a Yellow-Green Colour


Quinoline yellow is used to give food a greenish-yellow/lemon-lime colour. The name quinoline comes from a chemical derived from coal tar. It may be found in products like juices or sorbet. However, it is not currently approved for food use in the U.S.1 or Canada2.

The molecular formula of the water soluble form is: C18H13NO5/8/11S1/2/3Na1/2/3.

Health Effects

Like other artificial food colours, Quinoline yellow may result in increased hyperactivity in children. It may also cause allergy symptoms in people who are allergic to aspirin. However, one report indicates that there is no conclusive evidence for either of these claims3.


Sometimes, the history behind a scientific discovery can be fascinating, and to me, the story of Quinoline is falls into this category.

It starts with an analytical chemist, named Friedlieb Ferdinand Runge (born ear Hamburg, Germany, in 1795). Friedlieb, who was a medical student, was working with extracts from the deadly nightshade plant. He discovered that he could dilate a cat’s eyes using one of these extracts.

The famous German poet and philosopher, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, heard about Friedlieb’s experiments, and asked for demonstration. Goethe was impressed, and suggested Friedlieb study coffee. In 1819, Friedlieb discovered caffeine

Friedlieb Ferdinand Runge completed his medical studies, and then earned a Doctorate in chemistry at the University of Berlin in 1822. He became a chemistry professor at the the University of Breslau, but by 1831 he had become tired of academic life. So, he moved into a chemical factory in Oranienburg to work on synthetic dyes. During this time, his work also included the discovery of coal tar products and a large number of substances derived from coal tar, including Quinoline.

Unfortunately, in 1856 he got into a dispute over the rights to a process he had developed for the manufacture of synthetic fertilizer. The widow of the factory owner evicted him, and in 1867, he died in obscurity and poverty.


  1. Summary of Colour Additives for Use in the United States
  2. Canadian Food Additive Dictionary
  3. Scientific Opinion on the re-evaluation of Quinoline Yellow (E 104) as a food additive

Further Reading




Posted in Colour, Food Additives, Ingredients
One comment on “Quinoline Yellow
  1. Sounds like a food coloring that’s on its way out. It’s always sad to hear of inventors or artists who make significant contributions but are not appreciated in their own lifetime.

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