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Where do colorants come from? | ¿De dónde vienen los colorantes?

When we get a product in the supermarket, it is not rare to read on the back of the packaging  “Contains: E-140, E-160…” What does that mean? Don’t you are afraid of all these technical denominations? Maybe you should not. To get an answer, let’s travel back to remote times. The old pre-Columbian and Egyptian cultures used natural colorant to dye their clothes and meals. The dying potential of natural products was fundamental to give a appetizing aspect to what they were going to eat. Nevertheless, as the chemical colorants appeared, the use of the oldest one went decreasing.

Are called “natural colorants” all those foodstuffs products that comes from animals, vegetal or minerals and in which they are present in their natural form. In a largest way, all colorants from organic materials that had been obtained by thermal treatment, heating or crushing are considered as natural colorants, as caramel is.

You obtain caramel (E-150) colorant thanks to a vegetal. And so are carotids (E-160), chlorophyll (E-140) or the curcuma (E-100). On the other hand, the most used animal colorant is the Cochineal (E-120). Cooking the female’s body of those insects, you will obtain a red colorant. It is used to colour syrup, marmalades and jams. It also can make a good colorant for vegetables in can, ice creams and lacteous as yogurts, fresh cheese, and some carnivorous products and drinks. To conclude, we know that “E-X” products are made from natural colorants.


Give us your point. Do you use to look what the products contain before buying it? What does influence your decision?


Cuando compras un producto en el supermercado es habitual leer en la parte trasera del embalaje “Contiene: E-140, E-160…” ¿Qué significa? No te dan miedo  todas ésta denominaciones? Quizá no tendría porqué. Para tener una respuesta, te propongo viajar a tiempo remotos. Antiguamente, las civilizaciones precolombinas y egipcias utilizaban colorantes para teñir el textil o colorar los platos. El potencial de tinción observado en productos naturales se añadían a los alimentos para hacerles más apetecibles. Sin embargo, con la aparición de colorantes artificiales en el mercado, su uso se hace cada vez más escaso. 

Se llaman “colorantes naturales” aquellos productos alimenticios de origen animal, vegetal o incluso mineral en los cuales se encuentra colorante de forma natural. Por extensión, se consideran también naturales los colorantes obtenidos de materiales biológicos al calentarse, someterse a tratamiento térmico o machacando, como el caramelo.

El caramelo (E-150) pertenece a la familia de los colorantes de origen vegetal. También se encuentran en esta familia los Carotenoides (E-160), las Clorofilas, las Clorofilinas (E-140 y E-141) o la Curcumina (E-100). Por su parte, el colorante animal más utilizado es la Cochinilla (E-120). Con la cocción del cuerpo de insectos hembra se obtiene un colorante rojo. Se usa en confitería para colorear jarabes, confituras y mermeladas. También en conservas vegetales, helados y lácteos como el yogur y el queso fresco, y en productos cárnicos y en bebidas. Ahora sabes, los productos especificando “E-X” contienen colorantes naturales.


Ahora danos tu punto. ¿Antes de comprar alimentos, vas a mirar de qué está compuesto? ¿Cuáles son los factores que influyen en tu decisión?

References (2)

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    Sustainable architecture, design, art, fashion, eco-chef and more - Chef - Where do colorants come from? | ¿De dónde vienen los colorantes?
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    Excellent Website, Maintain the useful job. Thanks a ton!

Reader Comments (2)

I really do a close examination of the components of the food and cosmetics I buy... Needless to say that I discard everything containing "vegetable oil", phenoxyethanol or parabens (these last two for cosmetics). I thought all the E-digit additives were bad for the health because they were from chemical origin... Isn't it the case ?

abril 25, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterNathalie

Hey Nathalie! sorry for the late reply:

Not all E Numbers are bad for your health, here you have a link to see which ones are safe for you, and which ones you should avoid :)

julio 18, 2011 | Registered Commenterrecyecology

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