Although many people won’t agree, we ear first with our eyes. Yes, the idea seems pretty absurd, but it’s the reality. Just question yourself, “Will you drink a transparent Coca-Cola or Pepsi, or will you eat a yellow Kitkat?”
Definitely, not! This brings us to the importance of colorfulness of everything we consume daily. And among all these colors, blue food coloring, especially with those M&M chocolates, are a favorite to all.
But do you know what is the blue food coloring made of?
The answer may surprise you.
This food color could well be the same blue dye you will see in your dark or light blue jeans, and we are not joking.
To find the answer and explanation, go through the write-up.
What Are The Blue Food Coloring?
Before we jump into finding the source of blue food dye and what it is made of, we must understand its characteristics and features.
Although we may not notice it in naked eyes, there’re two different blue food dyes. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has listed two blue colors for food ingredients among its seven colorsfor food approvals.
These two blues are-
- Blue No.1
- Blue No.2
Blue No.2 is popular among people as it is seen in M&M chocolates worldwide. It is referred to as ‘Indigotine.’ The name itself refers that the blue dye is perhaps sourced from the indigo plant and is a synthetic dye.
Also, it has been linked with textile dye for several hundred years now. That’s why this is the similar blue color you find in the jeans.
On the contrary, Blue No.1 is mainly an oil-based dye, and it is referred to as ‘Brilliant Blue.” These days, manufacturers develop it from oil bases, but previously it was derived from coal tar.
There have been controversies circling these blue food colors about their food safety and also, manufacturing process. But that’s another part of the debate.
What Is Blue Food Coloring Made Of?
The mainstream source of blue dye is indigo plants. Its scientific name is Indigofera. You might be surprised to know that these plants are used to manufacture blue dyes for the last 4000 years or even more.
It’s no joke! And simply ridiculous!
Scientists have found evidence of the use of indigo plants as textile dyes even before the birth of Christ. A scripture from Babylonian civilizations talks about using indigo on dye wools to give it an attractive color. The Babylonian cuneiform tablet is dated back to the 7th century B.C. So, this is clear evidence of indigo plants’ application for blue dyes, which is almost 3000 years old.
However, the natural indigo dye used in blue color isn’t colorfast. It means the color fades away faster than most dyes used in the textile sector. That’s why jeans companies like Levis or H&M have introduced faded blue jeans.
The trend has gained immense popularity among youths, and we see no reduction in its popularity in the next few decades.
However, the blue dye used in the food color is not all-natural indigo. It is a synthetic dye mainly made using indigo. The chemical formula for brilliant blue (Blue No.1) is C37H34N2Na2O9S3, and Indigotine (Blue No.2) is C16H8N2Na2O8S2.
In European Union (E.U.), another type of blue food color is approved for use in food ingredients. It is Patent Blue V and is also referred to as Sulphan Blue or Food Blue 5.
The food additive features a sky blue color and is mentioned as E131 in the E.U. food coloring list. You will see its presence in gelatin desserts, jelly sweets, and mostly in Scotch eggs. However, its use is highly limited only in European countries.
The most surprising thing about Blue V is its sanctions in the U.S. and Australia. Both countries consider this blue color unsafe for food items and so have banned it.
The Use of Synthetic Blue Dye in Food Ingredients
Although natural blue dye has been in the textile and even in the food industry for hundreds of years, synthetic food color is a pretty new inclusion. William Perkin was an English chemist, and he invented the synthetic blue dye in the middle of the 19th century, only a few years after World War 2.
It stormed everyone freaked out, and soon the color becomes popular among food manufactures for cakes, gelatins, chocolates, etc.
However, synthetic indigo was invented in 1883 by German chemist Adolf Von Baeyer, and its commercial production started in the early 1900s.
The Future of Blue Food Color
Well, this has been a hot topic among nutritionists and scientists. While many natural dyes were earlier considered food safe, the notion is changing rapidly. Nowadays, scientists believe that synthetic dyes could well be the solution, but many people oppose it.
Firstly, synthetic dye is easy to manufacture and meets the massive needs of the food industry. While natural dyes are a safer option due to their chemical-free production, the huge demand of the food industry has left the natural blue colors at stake.
But consumers’ demand for natural food color is increasing, and processed food suppliers are trying to cope with the consumer’s demand. And it is pretty crucial also.
A recent study has shown that the chemical ingredients used to manufacture Blue No.2 may cause Hyperactivity disorder among kids, which leads to attention deficit. Also, it causes allergic symptoms among many people, which is a serious concerning issue.
Scientists are trying to improve the natural dye colors for food safety, and the future isn’t bad at all. So, we have to wait and see how the food color industry shapes.
So, what is blue food coloring made of? This is nothing but the natural indigo dye and the synthetic formation. Indigo plants were the main source of blue coloring for food until the mid-1900s, but the synthetic formula has changed it a lot.
However, the food safety of this synthetic blue food color is questionable, and so we recommend you to consume it as little as possible through cakes, gelatins, and chocolates