Natural colours are obtained from foodstuffs and other natural materials by physical or chemical extraction resulting in a selection of the pigments and are used to naturally modify the colouring of foodstuffs and beverages among other products. Natural colours are in great demand in those applications for which artificial colours are not permitted, such as in the meat industry. Although it is true that industries and gastronomy specialists add colouring additives to improve the appearance of some foods and to make them more acceptable to the eyes of consumers, the truth is that they are also used to compensate for the loss of colour that occurs during the processing and production of foods.
Colour is one of the first attributes we look at when choosing a food or drink. Its format, presentation and physical attractiveness is vital for the consumer. That is why colorants are very important additives in the food industry.
Among the natural colorants, Cochineal Carmine is one of the most used pigments in the food, cosmetic and pharmaceutical industry, due to its color and stability properties, and its natural production process approved by the FDA. The cochineal (Dactylopius coccus), is a small insect native to Peru, Mexico and certain countries in Africa, which lives as a parasite of the Opuntia cactus.
As well as carmine, we find other natural colourings such as curcumin, paprika, annatto, chlorophyll, etc., which can be presented in different variants depending on the use that is going to be given to the pigment and the product on which it is going to be used:
-Hydro-soluble: these are powders extracted from different raw materials as we have already seen (carmine, curcumin) which are mixed with water to dye the products.
-Liposoluble: these are oil-soluble products and fatty products such as butter, cheese, ice cream, desserts, cakes, etc. Among the best known are paprika, chlorophylls, among others.
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