As of July 2010, products containing any of the so-called Southampton Six food colours, which have been linked to hyperactivity in children, will have to carry a warning on packaging under European law.
Since this warning will be off-putting for consumers, food firms are working hard to remove the colours in question: Tartrazine (E102), Quinoline Yellow (E104), Sunset Yellow (E110), Carmoisine (E122), Ponceau 4R (E124) and Allura Red (E129).
But Holly Hughes, new product development technologist at Campden BRI, told FoodNavigator.com: “If you are trying to cut out other ingredients as well, you should do it at the same time.”
This is because any other changes aimed at ‘clean label’ products or improving the nutritional profile of products change the food matrix. Because different natural colours’ stability depends on what else is in the food, every reformulation project has to be handled on a bespoke basis.
Despite the relatively close timeframe before the Southampton warning labels come into play and the progress that many firms have made to date, Campden BRI is still receiving enquiries from food manufacturers. Hughes said many requests are for beverage reformulation, but that does not mean beverages are posing a particular problem; rather, it reflects its known capabilities in this area.
She explained that the challenge of replacing the Southampton colours is not so much a matter of some shades being harder than others, but rather what the customer wants to achieve. For instance, a product in a clear bottle that needs to have a long shelf life can pose problems as more natural colours may be less stable to heat and light.
Craig Leadley, new products and technologies section manager, said working with colours will become easier over time, as we learn more about how they work in different conditions, with different pH and oxygen levels.
It is also important to shop around different natural colour suppliers to find a solution that works, as a lot of research work is being done by ingredients companies to improve the way they work.
Campden BRI also has a project underway to assess the shelf life of colours when a product is put under different forms of stress, such as light and oxygen. Although this testing takes place under accelerated conditions, Hughes said this method must not be used to determine the shelf-life of a finished product. This must always be established in a real time setting.
Campden BRI’s fact sheet on Southampton reformulation is available by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line: send Southampton.