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Artificial colours

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Artificial colours are added to food to:

  • replace colour lost due to exposure to light, air, temperature extremes, moisture and storage conditions
  • correct natural variations in colour
  • enhance colours that occur naturally
  • provide colour and identity to colourless and "fun" foods
  • protect flavours and vitamins from damage by light.

In response to public complaints and overseas studies, the NSW Food Authority conducted surveys on the use of artificial colours in 2 areas of concern. One survey was conducted on levels of artificial colours in imported confectionery and the other was targeted at the levels of artificial colours in sauces and pastes.


The surveys showed the majority, 86%, of imported confectionery and sauces and pastes tested complied with labelling requirements and approved levels of artificial colours.

The main reason why a product did not comply was the detection of approved artificial colours that were not declared in the ingredient list. This highlighted labelling as an area needing improvement for manufacturers and/or importers.

10 of the over 400 products tested were found to contain artificial colours exceeding approved levels and 12 products contained an artificial colour not permitted for use in Australia. The levels posed little health risk to the population as the acceptable daily intakes of each artificial colour have been developed to ensure a large safety margin.

Manufacturers and/or importers of products found to contain high levels of colours or colours not permitted in Australia were followed up with action appropriate to the level of risk posed.

Full results are available in the report below:

Artificial Colours – Confectionery – Sauces and pastes, May 2014  (pdf 329KB, 25pp)

Table of contents  
Executive Summary
Part A - Artificial colours in imported confectionery
Part B - Artificial colours in sauces and pastes

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