Brilliant Blue FCF

Brilliant Blue FCF


Brilliant Blue FCF is a food additive with an E number of 133. Additives with E numbers between 100 and 199 are generally used as food dyes.


Brilliant blue FCF is sometimes referred to as FD&C Blue No.1. It is an artifical dye produced from petroleum.  It is usually found as a red-blue powder. The chemical formula is C37H34N2Na2O9S3.

It is a triphenylmethane colour. Triphenylmethane dyes are composed of three hydrocarbon rings linked to a central carbon atom1.

Common Uses:

Brilliant Blue FCF is commonly used in popsicles, soft drinks, jell-o, icings, and sometimes even canned peas. Besides food, it is also commonly found in mouthwash and shampoo.

Besides being used as a blue dye, it can used in combinations with other food colours. For example, it is often used with Tartrazine to produce a green colour.

Some specific examples of foods containing brilliant blue include:

Health Issues / Side Effects:

However, when Brilliant Blue is used in hard candies and lollipops there is a risk that the dye can be absorbed through the tongue directly into the bloodstream. Once in the blood, it may inhibit mitochondrial respiration.3 My understanding is that this basically means that a cell’s ability to convert food to energy may be affected.


In the U.S., brilliant blue can only be used in food once the FDA certifies the batch2. Once certified, the FD&C Blue No.1 name can be used.


  1. The Chemistry of Colors
  2. Summary of Colour Additives for Use in the United States
  3. International Programme on Chemical Safety – World Health Organization

Further Reading

  1. Canadian Food Additive Dictionary
Posted in Colour, Food Additives, Ingredients
One comment on “Brilliant Blue FCF
  1. Thanks for doing the research and summarizing it for us! Just the fact that the dye is petroleum-based is pretty non-appetizing. That is a potentially important fact you uncovered about how this dye could inhibit the workings of mitochondria when absorbed through the tongue. When you’ve seen a kid who has eaten a popsicle, you know that the blue dye stays on a kid’s tongue for a while.

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