1. J. Walford, "Historical Development of Food Coloration," in J. Walford, ed., Development of Food Colours-1, Applied Science, London, 1980, pp. 1-25.

2. F. Accum, A Treatise on the Adulteration of Food and Culinary Poisons, London, 1820.

3. A. H. Hassell, Food and Its Adulterants: Comprising the Reports of the Analytical Sanitary Commission of the Lancet 1857, London, 1857.

4. D. M. Marmion, Handbook of U.S. Colorants for Foods, Drugs and Cosmetics, 2nd ed., Wiley-Interscience, New York, 1984.

5. L. E. Parker, "Regulatory Approaches to Food Coloration," in J. Walford, ed., Developments in Food Colours-2, Applied Science, London, 1984, pp. 1-22.

6. J. B. Hallagan, D. C. Allen, and J. F. Borzellaca, "The Safety and Regulatory Status of Food, Drug and Cosmetic Color Additives Exempt from Certification," Food Chem. Toxicol. 33, 515-528 (1995).

7. F. J. Francis, Handbook of Food Colorants, Eagen Press, St. Paul, Minn., 1999.

8. A Proposed Food Safety Evaluation Process. Food Safety Council. Final Report, Nutrition Foundation, Washington D.C., 1982.

9. F. J. Francis, "Safety of Natural Food Colorants," in G. A. F. Hendry and J. D. Houghton, eds., Natural Food Colorants, Blackie, Glasgow, Scotland, 1996, pp. 112-130.

10. F. J. Francis, Handbook of Food Colorant Patents, Food and Nutrition Press, Westport, Conn., 1986.

11. U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Everything Added to Food in the United States, CRC Press, Boca Raton, Fla., 1993.

12. F. M. Clydesdale, Food Additives: Toxicology, Regulation, and Properties [CD ROM], CRC Press, Boca Raton, Fla. 1997.

13. D. E. Pszczola, D. E. "Natural Colors Pigments of Imagination," Food Technol. 52, 70-72 (1998).


The anthocyanins are probably the best known of the natural pigments. They are ubiquitous in the plant kingdom and are responsible for many of the orange, red, blue, violet, and magenta colors in plants. Their very visibility, combined with their role as taxonomic markers, has attracted the efforts of many research workers in the past 75 years. Their use as a colorant goes back to antiquity. The Romans used highly colored berries to augment the color of wine. The American Indians added cranberries to a "trail-stable" product called pemmican. Pemmican is a high-calorie mixture of dried meat strips, fat, and berries. The cranberries did provide an attractive color and flavor, and probably the highly acid cranberries improved storage stability. Certainly the acid would remove the possibility of botulism. Cranberries also contain the well-known preservative benzoic acid. Pemmican may be one of the earliest "fast foods" in the United States.

In view of the ubiquity of the anthocyanins and their high tinctorial power it comes as no surprise that many sources have been suggested as colorants. Francis listed more than 40 plants as potential sources with their pigment profiles and methods of extraction (1,2). Francis also listed 49 patents on anthocyanin sources (3). However, despite the large number of potential sources, only two have had commercial success, grapes and, more recently, red cabbage. Colorants from grapes have been available for nearly 120 years primarily from press cake as a by-product of the wine industry. Grapes are the world's largest fruit crop for processing. The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) 1989 estimate of annual production was 60,000,000 metric tons, of which about 80% was used for wine making. This ensures a limitless source of inexpensive raw material for colorant production.

The anthocyanins are chemically similar to the much larger group of flavonoids and are usually included in the general classification of flavonoids. Anthocyanins are usually orange-red in color, whereas the other flavonoids are usually colorless to yellow.

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