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Food additives
Food colours

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 Part B 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].

Food colours must be declared by their specific common names in the list of ingredients of a prepackaged product (e.g., "allura red"). This requirement to declare food colours by their specific common name in the list of ingredients also applies to food colours that are components of ingredients not exempt from component declaration.

Similarly to other food additives, the names in Health Canada's List of permitted colouring agents are acceptable common names. Alternate common names that may be used are listed in the Permitted synonyms for food additives table, if any. For more information, refer to Use of synonyms.

With the repeal of the "colour" class name, the term "colour" may not be used in the list of ingredients to declare the presence of one or more food colours. As well, the specific common names of one or more food colours may not be grouped and listed within parentheses after the term "colour", as this is not in compliance with the manner in which ingredients and components must be declared.

Manufacturers may voluntarily choose to include a function descriptor within parentheses following the specific common name of a food colour (e.g., "iron oxide (a food colour)", "iron oxide (a colouring agent)", "iron oxide (for colour)" or simply "iron oxide (colour)"). This statement of a colour's function would be additional information only and is not mandatory.

The lake of a water-soluble synthetic colour is an oil dispersible version of the colour. Although lake versions are not included in Health Canada's List of permitted colouring agents, if a specific food colour is permitted, use of the corresponding lake version is also permitted. The common name to be used for the lake version of a colour may simply be the common name of the colour (e.g., "tartrazine") or alternatively "(naming the colour) lake" (e.g., tartrazine lake).

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].

Although a food colour preparation is exempt from declaring its components when used as an ingredient in another food [B.01.009(2), FDR], any colours it contains must be shown in the list of ingredients of the food to which the preparation is added, by their specific common names, as if they are ingredients of that food, since the colours perform a function in, or have an effect on, the food [B.01.009(3)(f), FDR].

Refer to List of ingredients and allergens for more information on requirements pertaining to list of ingredients.

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