As it turns out, there is an Illegitimate Element Behind the Colorful Food

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  • As it turns out, there is an Illegitimate Element Behind the Colorful Food

By: Prof. Dr.. Hj. Ir. Purwantiningsih M.S.

Auditor Senior LPPOM MUI

For children, food or drinks that are served with various colors are indeed very eye-catching. Even so, it turns out that dyes store a critical point of halalness. Arbitrary?

Food coloring is divided into two, namely natural and synthetic (chemical). Natural dyes are made from natural materials such as plants, animals, and minerals. According to the Regulation of the Head of the Food and Drug Supervisory Agency (BPOM) of the Republic of Indonesia Number 37 of 2013 concerning the Maximum Limit of the Use of Coloring Food Additives, natural dyes allowed are curcumin, riboflavin, carmine and cochineal extracts, chlorophyll, caramel, plant carbon, beta-carotene, anato extract, carotenoids, beetroot, anthocyanins, and titanium dioxide.

(Also read: Complete Review of Rodamin B, a Dangerous Powder Dye)

Whereas synthetic food coloring is obtained chemically by mixing two or more substances into one new substance. Synthetic dyes that are allowed, but restricted in use, include tartrazine, quinine yellow, FCF yellow, carmoycin, ponceau, erythrosine, allura red, indigotin, diamond blue FCF, FCF green, and HT brown. Business actors tend to use synthetic dyes for the appearance of their products.

Synthetic dyes are more stable than natural dyes and synthetic dyes provide a uniformity of color that can be maintained, the color remains bright even though it has undergone processing and heating processes.

In terms of price, synthetic dyes are also much cheaper compared to natural dyes. No wonder synthetic dyes are still in great demand by food manufacturers. Although the use of synthetic dyes in terms of the material of their origin is not critical, but their use is limited because excessive use has a bad impact on human health.

Harmful synthetic dyes that have been found in food products in Indonesia are Rodamin B and methyanil yellow. Rodamin B is often mixed into foods, such as crackers and snack cakes, as well as drinks. Similarly, methyanil yellow dye is often found in various snacks such as crackers, noodles, tofu, and fried foods.

These two dyes are not for food products, but are generally used as dyes for textiles, paper, cosmetic products, ink, plastics, leather, and paints. Therefore, both dyes are strictly prohibited from being used in food products, because they can harm the health of the body.

In terms of safety, natural dyes are safer, it's just that natural dyes are less stable and easily damaged due to the influence of heat such as temperature, light, and other environmental influences during storage and processing. To extend shelf life, remain stable and maintain the freshness of these natural dyes, it is often made in the form of micro / nanoencapsulation with the addition of coating agents.

One type of coating that is often used is gelatin. The source of gelatin can come from animal bones/skin or fish bones/skin. We must clearly ascertain the source of the gelatin. If the gelatin used comes from animals, it must be ascertained from halal animals and slaughtered according to Islamic law. As proof of halalness, there must be a halal certificate document of the MUI or an institution recognized by the MUI.

Coating materials other than gelatin, which can be used are groups of polysaccharides such as carboxy of methyl cellulose, maltodextrin, carrageenan and other types of hydrocolloids sourced from vegetable materials or chitosan sourced from animals such as shrimp, crabs. Although the coating material comes from vegetable materials or animals that live in water, it is necessary to pay attention to the use of additives or auxiliary materials to obtain the product.

The tipping point of natural dyes is the source of the natural dye itself, process-assisting materials such as solvents used to extract those colors, and additives such as coating materials. One of the natural dyes from animals that are often worn is carmin (carmyn), derived from cochineal insects. Other natural dyes permitted by BPOM are regulated in the Permenkes RI No. 033 2012.

The use of dyestuffs, both natural and synthetic, has advantages and disadvantages. What is very important to note from the use of these dyes is that the properties of the material must be halal and safe / thayyib. The use of synthetic dyes is still allowed as long as it is indeed a food grade dye with a quantity that is not excessive and when using natural dyes, then make sure the source of dyes, additives and process helpers is halal and safe. (***)


  • Pearce, E. 2009. Physiological Anatomy for Paramedics. Jakarta: PT. Gramedia.
  • Retired, D. S. 2013. Effect of Rhodamine B Peroral Dose Stratified over 12 Weeks on Histomorphometric Picture of the Spleen. Semarang: Faculty of Medicine, Diponegoro University.
  • Shah et al. 2005. Benefits and Harms of Food Additives. Bogor: Alumni Association of the Faculty of Food Technology IPB.

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