Is Food Coloring Gluten Free – Brands and Information

  • Eating is a sensory experience that involves all our senses: taste, feel, sound, smell, and sight.
  • If you are celiac or suffer from gluten intolerance, you need to be aware that not all artificial colorings are gluten-free.
  • Though dyes are naturally gluten-free, cross-contamination may occur during manufacturing.
  • If you are celiac or suffer from gluten-intolerance, the best solution is to make your own food colorings or opt for gluten-free labeled commercial alternatives.

Is food coloring gluten free? Such an odd question to ask but many people suffering from celiac need to ask it before eating a food that contains food coloring. In this article we will go over the popular gluten free food coloring brands and provide much needed information on the topic.

People have been using natural dyes for centuries to color food and drinks and make them more appealing. There is no doubt that eating means much more than just taste.

Eating is a sensory experience that involves all our senses: taste, feel, sound, smell, and sight.

But things have changed a little since the Roman Times. Even though nature provides us with an extensive hue of colors we can use to color food (turmeric, Chlorophyll, carotenoids, etc.).

The use of synthetic colorings comes with a series of advantages that the modern man simply can’t overlook: reduced production costs, longer shelf-life, and extensive variety of colors. 

If you are celiac or suffer from gluten intolerance, you need to be aware that not all food colorings are gluten-free. Most are, but not all.

Is Food Coloring Gluten Free: What is food coloring

Adding colorants to food dates as far as 1500 B.C. when Egyptian candy makers started to add natural extracts to their products to make them more appealing. 

Initially, artificial food colorings were manufactured from coal tar. However, nowadays, synthetic food dyes are mostly derived from petroleum and undergo rigorous testing to ensure they don’t contain traces of the original petroleum.

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Artificial colorings are currently available in many forms (pastes, liquids, gels, powders) and are widely used in domestic cooking, commercial food production, and non-food industries (pharmaceutics, cosmetics, medicine, etc.)

In the U.S., there are seven artificial colors that have been approved for food usage:

• FD&C Blue No. 1 Brilliant Blue

• FD&C Blue No. 2 Indigotine

• FD&C Green No. 3 Fast Green

• FD&C Red No. 40 Allura Red

• FD&C Red No. 3 Erythrosine

• FD&C Yellow No. 5 Tartrazine

• FD&C Yellow No. 6 Sunset Yellow

Why are food colorings so widely used?

Well, eating should be a full sensory experience. And that implies sight. Food coloring is used to enhance natural colors, correct natural color variations, and make colorless foods more appealing and fun to eat.

What’s more, manufacturers use food coloring to help consumers identify their products immediately and thus enhance brand awareness. Just think of candies or ice creams!

Food Coloring Ingredients

Food dyes are either artificial or natural. Artificial colorings usually contain two main ingredients: propylene glycol and water.

But, in order to extend shelf life, certain dyes also contain preservatives such as propylparaben. It goes without saying that artificial colorings also contain FDA approved actual colors (see list above). 

Natural colors are made from pigments found in fruits, spices, vegetables, or insects. Of course, all of them must be FDA approved.  

Whether we are talking about natural or synthetic dyes, chemistry plays a crucial role in creating any food coloring. For instance, ‘natural red’ is obtained from crushed cochineal insects.

In order to become a dye, it has to be isolated, extracted and processed.

A regular green food dye that can be purchased from a supermarket may contain water, propylene glycol, FDA approved color additives (FD&C BLUE 1, FD&C YELLOW 5),  and preservatives (e.g. propylparaben). But it may also contain, for instance, spirulina which is a type of algae.

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Known brands for gluten free food coloring

Of course, if you want to make sure your food coloring is gluten-free, you can opt for homemade alternatives. There are plenty of available online tutorials. However, if you want to purchase your food colorings, there are certain brands you can safely consume.

AmeriColor 

All food colorings produced by AmeriColor are gluten-free. What’s more, they are also free of peanuts, tree nuts, and animal products. Here you can find all the important allergens-related information. 

For instance, their 3 Gram Powdered Food Color contains:

• Water

• Sugar

• One or more of these U.S. certified colors: Red 40 Lake (E129), Blue 1 Lake (E133), Yellow 5 Lake (E102), Blue 2 Lake (E132), Yellow 6 Lake (E110).

This product is not only gluten-free, but also Kosher Certified.

McCormick

is food coloring gluten free
via target

According to McCormick’s allergens statement, all their food colorings and extracts are gluten-free. However, the manufacturer encourages consumers to always check the ingredients statements printed on the packaging. Their compromise is to never hide ingredients on their products’ labels. 

Ingredients:

Blue: Water, Propylene Glycol, FD&C Blue 1, Red 40, Propylparaben 

Red: Water, Propylene Glycol, FD&C Reds 40 and 3, 0.1% Propylparaben 

Green: Water, Propylene Glycol, FD&C Yellow 5, Blue 1, Propylparaben 

Yellow: Water, Propylene Glycol, FD&C Yellow 5, FD&C Red 40, Propylparaben

Hopper

Hopper produces natural food colors made from fruits, berries, or vegetables. Their products are not only gluten-free but also free from egg, dairy, soy, nuts, sulfites, preservatives, and artificial flavors and colors. 

Ingredients in Hopper food colorings:

Natural Blue Color – Spirulina, Sucrose, Invert Sugar, Citric Acid

Cloudy Orange –Pumpkin, Carrot, Invert Sugar, Citric Acid

Natural Green Color –Spirulina, Safflower, Invert Sugar, Citric Acid, Sucrose

Pink –Radish, Cherry B, Purple Sweet Potato, Apple, Citric Acid

Natural Purple Grape Color –Hibiscus, Purple Carrot, Invert Sugar, Citric Acid

Lemon Yellow –Lemon, Safflower, Invert Sugar, Citric acid

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Cherry Red – Blackcurrant, Carrot,  Invert Sugar, Citric Acid

Black –Spirulina, Carrot, Pumpkin, Sucrose, Invert sugar, Citric acid

If you want to find out more about their products, make sure to visit their website

ColorKitchen

ColorKitchen produces a wide range of products, all of them naturally sourced, gluten-free, vegan, non-GMO, soy-free, and artificial dye-free. 

RED VELVET COLOR ingredients:

• Turmeric

• Vegetable juice

• Maltodextrin

Check out their official webpage for products and fun recipes. 

What to look out for

Though dyes are naturally gluten free, cross-contamination may occur during manufacturing. Most food manufacturing plants process different products.

And some of them may contain gluten. For instance, a factory that makes dyes could also produce sauces or seasonings that contain gluten. Cross-contamination is almost guaranteed if the factory uses the same machinery to process gluten free and gluten-containing products or gluten-containing grains that are stored on the processing plant.

However, there are manufacturers who take rigorous precautions to guarantee their dyes are really gluten free: use of gluten-free machinery, testing the final products for gluten, or not storing gluten-containing grains on the same plant dyes are produced. 

Then how can celiac and gluten-sensitive consumers play safe? Try to opt for food colorings that are clearly labelled as gluten-free. 

To sum up

Eating goes well beyond taste. It involves all our senses, including sight. It is impossible not to watch what you are eating, isn’t it?

An appealing appearance helps people fully appreciate what they are eating.  Though food colorings do not directly contain gluten, cross-contamination may occur during manufacturing.

So, if you are celiac or suffer from gluten-intolerance, the best solution is to make your own food colorings or opt for gluten-free labeled commercial alternatives.

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About the Author: Johnny

I am the senior editor and writer of Gluten Free Heroes, before that, I wrote for various well established online magazines about food and health. I love working out, traveling and eating healthy.