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Increasing Preference for Natural Colors Over Synthetic is Expected to Drive the Growth of the Europe Phycocyanin Market

   March 31, 2023

In recent years, there has been an increasing preference for natural colors over synthetic colors in Europe. This trend can be attributed to several factors, including concerns about the potential health risks associated with synthetic colors and a growing awareness of the environmental impact of industrial processes. the European Union implemented new regulations that require food manufacturers to label products containing synthetic colors with the warning "may have an adverse effect on activity and attention in children." This has led many manufacturers to switch to natural colors to avoid this warning label.

In Europe, all additives, including colors, must be authorized by European legislation before being used in food products. Once authorized, food colors are included in the permitted food additives listed in Regulation EC 1333/2008, which also specifies their conditions of use.

The Novel Foods and Novel Food Ingredients regulation (EC 258/97) was replaced by EU 2015/2283 in 2018, simplifying the current authorization procedures to consider recent technological progress and to review, clarify, and update the categories of food constituting novel foods. These foods include whole insects and their parts, food from cell culture or tissue culture derived from animals, plants, microorganisms, fungi or algae, and food of mineral origin. As per EU 2015/2283, foods used before 15 May 1997 exclusively as or in food supplements, as defined in Directive 2002/46/EC, are permitted to be placed on the market within the European Union after that date for the same use, and not considered novel food under this regulation. EU 2015/2283 applies to foods and ingredients not on the European market or consumed significantly before 15 May 1997. For example, spirulina has been on the market since 1997 and is not categorized as a novel food. However, the blue pigment, phycocyanin, has a guidance note for coloring foodstuffs. The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) regulates food products in the European Union. Several European countries have banned the use of synthetic colors in food products for health and safety reasons.

Furthermore, according to research studies conducted by California’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) and other research organizations, it has been observed that synthetic colorants can cause various health issues, such as allergies, skin irritation, and digestive problems. For instance, synthetic orange-red color induces allergy-like reactions & hyperactivity in children. Also, according to the African Journal of Biotechnology, high consumption of tartrazine is linked to cancer and is known to trigger asthma attacks, hazy vision, eczema, and skin reactions.

Thus, health risks associated with the consumption of artificial food colors and the growing health consciousness among consumers have increased the utilization of natural colors in food, beverage, pharmaceutical, and cosmetic products. Furthermore, government authorities are undertaking initiatives to discontinue the marketing licenses of products containing synthetic colors. Some of the synthetic food colors banned in European countries are as follows:

  • In 2022, Yellow 5 and Yellow 6 food colors were banned in Norway and Austria. Products containing these colors must have warnings on their labels for sale in the European Union.
  • In 2021, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) banned titanium dioxide (E171), a synthetic food additive, in Europe.
  • In 2009, the U.K. Food Standards Agency phased out the synthetic food color tartrazine.
  • Since 1994, the synthetic food color Allura Red AC has been banned in Denmark, Belgium, France, and Switzerland.
  • The food color Erythrosine has been banned in Norway and the U.S., as it is linked to thyroid disorders.
  • The European Union has banned the food color Azodicarbonamide for over a decade.
  • Carmoisine has been banned in Sweden, the U.S., Japan, and Norway. It has also been phased out in the U.K. as it is linked to allergic reactions and intolerance.

Thus, the health hazards of synthetic colors and strict regulations governing the use of synthetic colors are increasing the preference for natural colors, including phycocyanin, driving the growth of this market.

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