Turmeric

Curry Powder

 

 

Turmeric

Turmeric is a spice commonly found in curry.

Although the food industry considers it to be a spice, regulating agencies such as the US Food and Drug Administration classify it as a food dye. Turmeric provides a bright yellow colour to food.

Description

The turmeric plant is related to ginger.  Both plants are rhizomes.  Rhizomes are underground plant stems that may produce roots and shoots for a new plant.

Turmericroot
Most turmeric is produced in India.  There are two major types, Madras and Alleppey.  Each is named for the region in India where it is produced.  In North America, turmeric is predominantly the Alleppey form.  Alleppey turmeric contains about 3.5% to 5.5% volatile oils, and 4.0% to 7.0% curcumin.  Madra turmeric, on the other hand, contains only about 2.0% volatile oils and 2.0% curcumin.1

The volatile oils give turmeric it’s flavour while curcumin is responsible for the yellow colour.  Once the curcumin is extracted from the turmeric, it is often further purified to a crystalline material that can be used in products where the turmeric flavor is undesirable, such as cheese, ice cream, beverages and baked products.  Curcumin has similar color characteristics to the synthetic food dye tartrazine.  Unfortunately it is highly sensitive to light and alkaline pH.  It is also degraded by heat and chemical oxidants.  This means that it is not easy to use in food processes or products destined to long-term storage.  That means that tartrazine may still be the preferred food dye.

Common Uses

When used as a colouring agent, turmeric is often suspended in vegetable oil or it is emulsified in different carriers, such as polysorbate 80 or propylene glycol.

Turmeric is commonly used as a dye in foods such as:

Curry Powder

Curry Powder

Health Issues / Side Effects

Turmeric has both anti-oxident and anti-inflammatory properties.2  Since ancient times, turmeric has been used as a medicine to treat a variety of conditions including inflammatory skin conditions, stomach pain, and headaches.

Phytochemicals are the chemicals found in plants are are responsible for the smell and colour.  The phytochemicals found in turmeric may be beneficial, and are being investigated for potential uses against diseases such as cancer and arthritis.3

Consuming turmeric, especially quantities found in processed foods for colouring purposes, is unlikely to have any side effects.  Eating larger amounts may cause problems if you have gallbladder problems.  Turmeric may make these problems worse. It can also slow down blood clotting which may be an issue if you are scheduled for surgery.4

E Number

Turmeric has an E Number of 100.

Other yellow food dyes include:

Sources:

  1. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations
  2. Clinical Trials Studying Affects of Curcumin on Various Conditions
  3. US National Library of Medicine – Medicine Plus
  4. Oregon State Univesity – Linus Pauling Institute

 

 

Posted in Colour, Food Additives, Ingredients

Tartrazine

Chemical composition of tartrazine

Tartrazine

Tartrazine InfographicClick infographic to enlarge.

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Tartrazine, also commonly referred to as yellow dye #5, is a dye used to give foods a bright lemon yellow colour. It can also be used in combination with blue and green dyes to colour food various shades of green.

Some reports indicate that Tartrazine is the second most commonly used food dye after Allura Red (Red 40).1

Description

Tartrazine is known as an azo dye and has the chemical formula of C16H9N4Na3O9S2.

What is an azo dye?

In chemistry, a hydrocarbon is an organic compound made entirely from hydrogen and carbon atoms, and there are many many different kinds of hydrocarbons.  Now, an azo dye is a chemical compound where two hydrocarbon groups are joined by two nitrogen atoms. The letters azo are derived from the french word for nitrogen, azote.

Azo dyes account for roughly 60 to 70% of all dyes used in the food and textile industries. The reason they are so popular is that azo dyes are cheap to produce and are more stable than most natural food dyes.

Looking at the chemical formula for tartrazine, we can see that there are other elements besides nitrogen, carbon and hydrogen present.  Specifically, tartrazine also contains sodium (Na), oxygen (O), and sulfur (S).

Sometimes you may find a reference that says tartrazine is made from coal tar.  This is not completely accurate.  The organic compounds used to make tartrazine can be extracted from coal tar.  In 1884 when H. Zeigler first discovered it, he was likely working with coal tar.  Today, the compounds are produced as byproducts of the petroleum industry.  This shouldn’t be as scary as it sounds.  Once the organic compounds have been extracted, the source isn’t important.

Common Uses

Tartrazine can be found in a wide variety of foods including desserts and candies, soft drinks, condiments, and breakfast cereals.  The following list provides some specific examples of foods containing tartrazine:

If you have other examples of products that contain tartrazine, let me know by leaving a comment.

Health Issues / Side Effects

Allergic Reactions / Intolerance

Some people, particularly those with asthma or aspirin intolerance may also have an intolerance to tartrazine.2 Symptoms can include hives and swelling. It seems the possibility of tartrazine triggering an asthma attack is quite low.4

Reactions to tartrazine can range from mild to very servere. If anybody has had personal experience with a tartrazine allergy, please leave us a comment.

Hyperactivity

When combined with the preservative sodium benzoate, certain food colourings including tartrazine, may be linked to hyperactivity in children.

E Number

The E number of Tartrazine is 102.  Other yellow dyes include:

Notes

Besides being used in food, tartrazine can also be found in medications (think cough drops) and in cosmetics.

In Canada, manufacturers do not have to specifically state what types of colour they have added to food.  It is okay for the ingredient label to use the generic term “colour”.  However, because of possible allergies or intolerance, U.S manufacturers are required to declare the use of tartrazine. Because Canadians share so many products with the United States, we do see tartrazine on many of our food labels.

Sources

  1. Food Dyes – Center for Science in the Public Interest
  2. Canadian Medical Association Journal – Tartrazine: A Potentially Hazardous Dye in Canadian Drugs
  3. European Food Safety Authority
  4. Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America

Further Reading / Resources

Canadian Food Additive Dictionary

FDA Food Additive Status List

UK Foods Standards Agency, Approved Food Additives

Food Standards – Australia and New Zealand

Tartrazine Intolerance – Allergy Mate

Food Additive Allergy, Tartrazine – Rightdiagnosis.com

FD & C Yellow No. 5 – Drugs.com

Posted in Colour, Food Additives, Ingredients

What is Riboflavin?

 

What is Riboflavin?

Riboflavin is a nutrient necessary for maintaining good health in humans and animals. It is also commonly refered to as vitamin B2.

As a food additive, it is used as an deep yellow – orange – red food colouring. Note that “flavin” comes from the Latin word for yellow, “flavus”.

Description:

Riboflavin is a water soluble vitamin produced by plants and many micro-organisms. Humans cannot produce riboflavin even though it is essential to life. Insufficient riboflavin (called Ariboflavinosis) can result in loss of hair, inflammation of the skin, vision deterioration, and growth failure.

Industrially, it can be produced by a variety of bio-technologies using fungus or bacteria. Some types of bacteria (Bacillus subtilis) have actually been genetically modified to increase their riboflavin production.1

Common Uses:

Riboflavin can be difficult to incorporate into most foods due to poor solubility and because it degrades quickly when exposed to sunlight.

When used to fortify foods, typical products include cereals, sauces, vitamin supplements, soups.

As a food colouring, it is commonly found in candy.

 

Health Issues / Side Effects:

We need riboflavin to survive, so it is probably quite safe as a food additive, especially in the small quantities required for food colouring.

In some people, riboflavin may cause urine to turn a darker yellow-orange colour. When consumed in high amounts, it may cause diarrhea and/or an increase in urine.2

E Number:

There are actually two types of riboflavin used as colouring agent. The E Numbers are 101 and 106.

Riboflavin 5′-phosphate has an E Number of 101a.  It is sometimes used because it is more soluble.

Riboflavin 5′-sodium phosphate has an E Number of 106.

Notes:

I have not been able to find any product that lists riboflavin as an ingredient specifically added to provide colour. It is hard, because Canada does not require product labels to specifically state what kind of food colouring is used.
If anybody knows of such a product (in any country) please leave a comment.

Sources:

  1. IPCS – International Programme on Chemical Safety
  2. WebMD – Riboflavin

 

Posted in Colour, Food Additives, Ingredients

What is Potassium Benzoate?

Potassium Benzoate

Potassium Benzoate, is a preservative that is used to keep beverages fresh and safe. It protects against yeasts, moulds, and certain types of bacteria. It is currently approved for use in Canada, the USA, the EU, Austalia, and New Zealand.

Potassium Benzoate is used as an alternative to Sodium Benzoate, often in cases where a lower sodium content is required.

Description

The chemical formula of Potassium Benzoate is C7H5KO2. In its raw form, it looks like a white crystalline powder. However, some companies will supply a liquid form for use in the food industry.

Common Uses

Potassium Benzoate is commonly used in soft drinks. One example is Pepsi’s Tropicana Twister Soda.

Other uses of Potassium Benzoate may include salted margarine, olives, sauces and relishes, jams and jellies, pastry and pie fillings, and low fat salad dressings.

One interesting, use of Potassium Benzoate is in fireworks. It is used to create the “whistle” sound.

Health Issues / Side Effects

When exposed to heat and light, some products that contain both potassium benzoate and ascorbic acid (vitamin C) may produce benzene.1 This is a concern because benzene is a known carcinogen. It causes cancer in humans.

There have also been reports that a small percentage of people may have allergic reactions and/or find that their symptoms become worse after eating foods containing benzoic acid. This may be particularly true if the foods also contain tartrazine (E102).2,3

E Number

The E number Potassium Benzoate is 212.

Other benzoates include calcium benzoate (E 213), sodium benzoate (E 211), and benzoic acid (E 210).

Notes

If you’re concerned about consuming sodium benzoate, be sure to check the ingredient lists of the products you buy. There are many products that do not use it.

Sources

  1. FDA Questions and Answers Regarding Benzene in Soft Drinks
  2. US National Library of Medicine
  3. UK Food Guide

Links

If you want to read more, try the following links…

  1. Fireworks ingredients
  2. Potassium Benzoate Supplier – FBC Industries Inc.

Canadian Food Additive Dictionary
FDA Food Additive Status List
UK Foods Standards Agency, Approved Food Additives
Food Standards – Australia and New Zealand

Posted in Food Additives, Preservative

Sodium Benzoate

picture of a can of diet coke

What is sodium benzoate?

Sodium benzoate is a food preservative and protects against yeasts, moulds, and certain types of bacteria.  It is currently approved for use in Canada, the USA, the EU, Austalia, and New Zealand.

Description

As a food preservative, sodium benzoate (NaC6H5CO2) seems to be the most commonly used salt of benzoic acid.  In its raw form, it appears as a white crystalline powder.  In chemistry, the term salt is not what we generally think of when we hear salt.  Instead, it refers to a particular set of compounds (ionic compounds) that result when an acid is neutralized by a base.  In this case, benzoic acid, C6H5COOH, reacts with sodium carbonate (Na2CO3).

Common Uses

Sodium benzoate is a very common food preservative.  It is used in soft drinks, pickles, fruit juices and salad dressings.

picture of a can of diet coke

In the UK, Diet Coke has dropped Sodium Benzoate

It seems that because of the amount of bad publicity surrounding the use of sodium benzoate (see below), many company’s are looking for alternatives.  I’ve read that in the UK, Diet Coke has switched to a combination of potassium benzoate and citric acid instead of sodium benzoate.3  However, in Canada, sodium benzoate is still clearly listed as an ingredient in these products.

Some specific examples of products that list sodium benzoate as an ingredient include:

If you know of a product that contains sodium benzoate, let us know by leaving a comment.

 

Health Issues / Side Effects

There have been reports that people suffering from asthma, aspirin sensitivity, or urticaria may have allergic reactions and/or find that their symptoms become worse after eating foods containing benzoic acid.  This may be particularly true if the foods also contain tartrazine (E102).1

There has also been some concern that benzoic acid and its salts may react with ascorbic acid in soft drinks, forming small quantities of benzene.2  This is a worry because benzene is toxic and linked to many forms of cancer

At least one study found evidence that sodium benzoate could cause damage to DNA that may be linked to cirrhosis of the liver and Parkinson’s disease.4  In this case, there is an argument that because the study used yeast cells which are more prone to damage than other animal cells, the conclusions cannot be applied to human consumption.

If all of that isn’t enough, the UK foods standard agency has produced studies that may link artificial food colours, used in combination with sodium benzoate, to hyperactivity in children.5

E Number

The E number sodium benzoate is 211.

Other benzoates include calcium benzoate (E 213), potassium benzoate (E 212), and benzoic acid (E 210).

Notes

If you’re concerned about consuming sodium benzoate, be sure to check the ingredient lists of the products you buy.  There are many products that do not use it.

Sources

  1. UK Food Guide – Benzoic Acid
  2. German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment
  3. Diet Coke to drop additive in DNA damage fear
  4. Yeast superoxide dismutase mutants reveal a pro-oxidant action of weak organic acid food preservatives
  5. Food Standards Agency issues revised advice on certain artificial colours

Links

If you want to read more, try the following links…
Canadian Food Additive Dictionary
FDA Food Additive Status List
UK Foods Standards Agency, Approved Food Additives
Food Standards – Australia and New Zealand

 

 

Posted in Food Additives, Ingredients, Preservative

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