Food Colors: What is Sunset Yellow?

HomeFood Colors: What is Sunset Yellow?

Food Colors: What is Sunset Yellow?

Brighter Food with Sunset Yellow Food Color

The food we see in food magazines is designed to appeal to our sense of sight. The food undergoes various cooking and presentation techniques in order to be attractive to the eye. In this, food colour has a major role to play as it enhances the real colour of the product and remedies any reduction in colour due to processing or storage.

There are two broad types of food colours – natural food colours and artificial food colours. Natural food colours are obtained from plants and animals, and are hence more expensive with a limited variety of colours. Artificial food colours are manufactured in laboratories and have more uniformity and stability and intensity of colour while being cheaper than natural colours.

Common Uses of Sunset Yellow Food Color

One of the artificial food colours that is used commonly is Sunset Yellow Food Colour. It is also known as FD & C yellow 6 (in the US) and denoted with E110 (in Europe). The water soluble colour is a bright orange-red in colour and is available in the form of powders or granules. As gel food colouring, it is available as a gel paste powder that easily dissolves in water. It is used in a wide array of products including food products, cosmetics, and drugs. As a food colour, sunset yellow is added to baked goods, snacks, beverages, sauces, and candies, including by some of the leading confectionery brands. Mixed with the colour amaranth (E123), sunset yellow produces the colour brown that is used in chocolate manufacturing.

How is Sunset Yellow Manufactured?

A common method of producing sunset yellow food colour that has been identified by the Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA). The product created by diazotizing 4-amino benzenesulfonic acid using hydrochloric acid and sodium nitrite or sulfuric acid and sodium nitrite then coupled with 6-hydroxy-2-napthalene-sulfonic acid is isolated as disodium salt and dried to produce sunset yellow.

Coupling diazotized sulfanilic acid with 2-naphthol-6-sulfonic acid, and coupling sulphanilic acid with Schaeffer’s acid are two other methods of manufacturing sunset yellow.

Is Sunset Yellow Safe to Use?

Just like in the case of quinoline yellow ws, concerns have been raised about sunset yellow that its use may cause health concerns, including claims of causing hyperactivity in children.

Recent studies conducted by a leading British university have concluded that there may be a connection between consuming food products that contain sunset yellow food colour and the increased hyperactivity in children. Due to this, experts advise that hyperactive children avoid use of foods that contain sunset yellow food colour. In the European Union, food additives such as sunset yellow carry the message “may have an adverse effect on activity and attention in children” as part of their product information label. This is, however, not being followed as a mandatory regulation by countries outside of the European Union.

As per the regulations of the WHO’s Codex Alimentarius, the maximum permitted quantity of sunset yellow in mg/kg are 300mg in Confectionery items, breakfast cereals, jams, jellies, marmalades, sauces, seasoning, and condiments, 200mg in alcoholic beverages and fermented vegetables, 400mg in chocolates, 135mg in cured and comminuted meat products, and 100mg in water-based flavoured drinks.

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