Food Additives
Food Colours

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Colours that are acceptable for use as food additives are listed in the list of permitted colouring agents.

Most food colours must meet the specifications set out in the Food Chemical Codex (FCC) or the specifications of the Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA). The two food colours Ponceau SX and Citrus Red No. 2 must meet the specifications set out in Division 6 of the Food and Drug Regulations (FDR). In the case where no FDR, FCC or JECFA specifications exist for a specific food colour, it must contain no more than 3 parts per million of arsenic, and 10 parts per million of lead [B.01.045, FDR].

Colours are permitted to be declared in the list of ingredients of a prepackaged product by using the names in Health Canada's list of permitted colouring agents as common names, or by using the collective class name "colour" [B.01.010(1)(b), item 3, FDR].

Rules surrounding the use of colours include:

  • The term "colour" cannot be used to describe annatto, allura red or sunset yellow FCF when used in certain meat preparations;
  • Annatto must be declared as "annatto" when used in the preparation of tocino [B.14.031(i), FDR];
  • Annatto, allura red, and/or sunset yellow FCF must be declared as annatto, allura red, and/or sunset yellow FCF when used in the preparation of longaniza sausage [B.14.032(d)(xvi), FDR];
  • The US colour common name is only acceptable when it is presented in brackets following the Canadian colour common name (e.g., "Brilliant Blue FCF (FD & C Blue No. 1)") or if it is followed by the collective class name "colour" (e.g., "FD & C Blue No. 1 colour");
  • A preparation of colours for use in or upon food must carry the words "Food Colour Preparation" on its principal display panel (definition) B.06.007(a), FDR].
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