Why is Chlorophyll Added to Food?

Picture of Leaves Containing Chlorophyll

Chlorophyll Makes Leaves Green

Chlorophyll In Food

Chlorophyll is a green pigment. It is commonly found in algae, plants and some types of bacteria.

When added to food, it acts as a dye. It provides an olive/dark-green colour. It has an E number of 140. Other green food colours include:

It may also be known as CI Natural Green 3.

Description

Most people would probably recognize chlorophyll as the chemical responsible for photosynthesis in plants. It is the chemical that helps the plants produce energy from sunlight.

In chemistry, it is considered to be a chlorin pigment. Chlorin (not to be confused with chlorine) is a ring shaped organic molecule. In the case of chlorophyll, the ring will always have a magnesium atom at its center.

It is not soluble in water. It is a fairly unstable dye and fades easily. It loses its vibrant green colour in acidic conditions. Colour loss is accelerated by heat. Therefore, it must be stabilized before use as a food colouring. It dissolves easily in oil and alcohol.

Chlorophyll is not easy to obtain in a pure form. Commercial chlorophyll is produced from grasses. It usually contains other plant material impurities.

Common Uses

Chlorophyll is used in a wide range of products. It is used in drinks, ice cream, popsicles, candies, sauces, pasta, pickles and even some cheeses.

Chlorophyll is also often sold as a health supplement.

Have you ever noticed chlorophyll in an ingredient list? If you have, please leave a comment and let me know about it.

Curcumin is often used with chlorophyll to produce a lime green colour. Curcumin is a yellow dye found in turmeric.

Health Issues / Side Effects

There are a lot of sources that cite the health benefits of chlorophyll. Among other things, it has been said to:

  • Enhance energy
  • Detoxify the liver
  • Eliminate body odour and bad breath
  • Clean the digestive tract
  • Aide in the prevention of liver cancer

It all sounds nice, but there aren’t any scientific studies to back up these claims. At least none that I’ve found. In any case, the amounts used to colour food would probably not have any significant effect.

To much chlorophyll can cause a sensitivity to light.

References

  1. FDA GRAS Notice for Ethyl Lauroyl Arginate
  2. Australia Food Standards List of Additives
  3. Current EU approved additives and their E Numbers
  4. The Benefits of Chlorophyll

Further Reading

Posted in Colour, Food Additives, Ingredients

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