Risk at a Glance

Safety of Food Colourings

What are Food Colourings?

Food colourings are food additives that add or restore colour to food. They are typically used in very small amounts to achieve the colour needed and labelled as “E numbers” or generally as “colourings” on food packaging.

An example is Sunset yellow FCF, sometimes labelled as E110, a permitted yellow food colouring commonly used in beverages and food products like kaya spread or sweets.

How does SFA ensure Food Colourings are Safe?

Like other food additives, all food colourings must be approved by SFA before they can be allowed for use in food sold in Singapore. Similarly, when assessing the safety of a food colourings, SFA takes reference from the assessments by the Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA). 

Under the Singapore Food Regulations, only permitted colourings are allowed to be used in food and SFA has in place a food sampling and testing programme to ensure compliance with these regulations.

More information on the safety of food additives can be found here: SFA | Food additives – are they safe?

Non-permitted Food Colourings

Food colourings which are not listed in our Food Regulations are not permitted. Some of these unapproved colourings are deemed unsafe due to evidence of carcinogenicity. Examples of such colourings include Sudan dyes, Rhodamine B, Dimethyl Yellow and Toluidine Red. To ensure that these non-permitted colourings are not found in food sold in Singapore, SFA conducts regular market surveillance across various food & beverage categories. SFA adopts a risk-based approach to food safety, with an integrated system to ensure that both imported and locally produced food are safe for consumption. Food which are found to be non-compliant with the established standards are not allowed for sale.

Advice to Industry

  • Conduct regular checks of incoming raw materials and end products to verify that the ingredients used by suppliers do not contain unpermitted colourings
  • Source only from reliable suppliers

Advice to Consumers

  • When selecting food products, especially spices, avoid those with abnormally bright colours.
  • Check labels on food packaging to verify if the listed colourings are permitted. If you are keen to find out how you can interpret food additives listed on product labels, you can refer to resources available on our SFA website. or if you would like to check if an additive is permitted for use in Singapore, you can refer to the “List of Permitted Food Additives
  • Purchase food from SFA-approved sources.


About the author

Chin Zan Xin is a Senior Scientist from from the Food Science Rapid Response Department of the National Centre for Food Science. She has a Bachelor Degree (Chemistry, Honours) from the National University of Singapore and is currently responsible for matters related to food additives in food.