artificial colours

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A substance added to food to make it appear more appetizing and to restore colours lost during processing. Many added food colours come from natural substances, such as caramel (burnt sugar, E150) and annatto (E160b, a yellowish-red dye from the pulpy seeds of a small South American tree). Some of the most controversial ones are artificial, such as the azo food dyes, which were originally made from coal tar. Some artificial colours have been banned because they are suspected carcinogens or because they cause allergic reactions. In the UK, there are 52 permitted colourings, but baby foods are allowed to contain only three and these are also vitamin sources. See also food additives.

Subjects: Medicine and Health.

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