Ponceau SX

picture of maraschino cherries which may be coloured using ponceau sx

Maraschino Cherries may be coloured using Ponceau SX

Ponceau SX

Ponceau SX is a bright red synthetic dye used to colour food. The name comes the French word for poppy. It is part of a family of dyes called Ponceau dyes.

Other names include Scarlet GN, FD&C Red No. 4, or C.I.14700.


As mentioned in previous posts, Ponceau dyes are azo dyes. The word “azo” is derived from the french word for nitrogen, azote. An azo dye is formed when two hydrocarbon groups are joined by two nitrogen atoms. The molecular formula for Ponceau SX is C18H14N2Na2O7S2.

Ponceau SX, like all azo dyes, is produced from petroleum products. Azo dyes account for roughly 60 to 70% of all dyes used in the food and textile industries. They are popular because they are cheap to produce and are more stable than most natural food dyes.

The E number of Ponceau SX is 125. Other dyes in the Ponceau family include:

Ponceau 2R
Ponceau 4R (E Number 124)
Ponceau S
Ponceau 6R (E Number 126)

Common Uses:

Ponceau SX is not a commonly used food dye. Although it does have an E number, it is not currently approved for use in the European Union.1 In the U.S. it has only restricted uses. The FDA webpage indicates that it is only allowed in externally applied drugs or cosmetics.2 However, some sources indicate it is still used to colour maraschino cherries because they are considered mainly decorative and not a foodstuff.3 In Canada, it is still approved for exactly this purpose (Fruit Peel; Glacé fruits; Maraschino cherries).4


  1. Current EU Approved Additives and their E Numbers
  2. Summary of Colour Additives for Use in the United States
  3. Wikipedia – Ponceau SX
  4. List of Permitted Colouring Agents in Canada

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