Phycocyanin in Confections: Adding Natural Blue and Green Color for Brighter and Healthier Sweets

Tuesday April 23, 2024

Blue is a frequently utilized color in the sweets manufacturing industry

Candy is one of food which favored by various age groups. Jelly candy is made by gelling agent and sweetener which forming a certain texture [1]. Jelly candy usually added food colorant to attract the consumer attention, where 85,7% of candy contain synthetic dyes [2]. One of the synthetic dyes which often  added  to  candy  is Brilliant Blue FCF [3]. Brilliant Blue is not resistant to  oxidation  [4], consuming in the  large quantities able to cause carcinogenic.  

Nevertheless, growing worldwide concerns about the potential health risks associated with artificial colors are leading to a surge in interest in natural substitutes. In recent years, a number of plant-based blue colorants have been developed from various pigments. Among them, those that include water-soluble phycocyanin pigments are notable for their vividness and their capability to serve as a replacement for Brilliant Blue FCF. Phycocyanin  is one  of  natural blue colorant that can be used and contained in Spirulina [5].

Regulations for the use of blue spirulina in the United States and the European Union

In the United States, phycocyanin is referred to as spirulina extract. Here are the FDA regulations that pertain to spirulina extract:

§73.530 Spirulina extract2013Candy and chewing gum.
§73.530 Spirulina extract2014Coloring confections (including candy and chewing gum), frostings, ice cream and frozen desserts, dessert coatings and toppings, beverage mixes and powders, yogurts, custards, puddings, cottage cheese, gelatin, breadcrumbs, and ready-to-eat cereals (excluding extruded cereals). 
§73.530 Spirulina extract2017Seasonally color the shells of hard-boiled eggs.

EC: Spirulina extract is typically considered a coloring food in the EU, rather than a color additive. A coloring food is a food ingredient used for coloring purposes.[7]

JECFA:Spirulina extract is obtained by aqueous extraction of the biomass of Arthrospira platensis, an edible cyanobacterium. The organism is cultivated and harvested under conditions that prevent the growth of other cyanobacteria and the production of microcystins. The material extracted from the biomass is further treated by steps that may include pH adjustment, centrifugation, filtration, concentration, sterilization, drying, and dilution to the desired degree of pigment concentration. Commercial products are formulated in liquid and powder forms.[8]

Combining spirulina extract with other natural colorants opens up more possibilities

Mixing spirulina extract with natural yellow colorants like turmeric or safflower yellow creates a variety of green shades, from turquoise to lime to emerald. Mixing spirulina extract with red coloring such as rose extract or aronia berry liquid extract results in a range of violet hues.

Natural green is produced by mixing blue spirulina with turmeric[9]

Binmei Biotechnology offers solutions for incorporating phycocyanin as a coloring agent in candy production

Since phycocyanin is a protein, it is sensitive to heat and pH, which limits its use by candy manufacturers aiming to achieve blue coloration. Binmei Biotechnology offers a natural blue coloring solution for the confectionery industry. In addition to providing various types of powder with different color values, Binmei Biotechnology can now formulate liquid phycocyanin that is better suited for the candy industry.

[1]  Habilla C, Sim S Y, Azizah N and Cheng L H 2011 The properties of jelly candy made of acid-thinned starch supplemented with konjac glucomannan or psyllium husk powder. International Food Research Journal. 18 213-220.  

[2]  Zahra N, Alim-un-Nisa, Kalim I, Fatima S, Khan H, Akhlaq F, Butt I F and Hina S 2016 Identification of synthetic food dyes in various candies. Park. J. Biochem. Mol. Biol. 49(1) 09-17.

[3]  Saleem N, Umar Z N and Khan S I 2013 Survey on the use of synthetic food colors in food samples procured from different educational institutes of Karachi city. The Journal of Tropical Life Science. 3(1) 1-7.

[4]  Allam K V and Kumar G P 2011 Colorant-The cosmetics for the pharmaceutical dosage forms. Review. International Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences. 3(3) 13-21.

[5]  Moraes C C, Sala L, Cerveira G P and Kalil S J 2011 C-Phycocyanin extraction from Spirulina platensis wet biomass. Brazillian Journal of Chemical Engineering. 28(01) 45-49.

[6] Summary of Color Additives for Use in the United States in Foods, Drugs, Cosmetics, and Medical Devices

[7]ICAM Spirulina Extract

[8]Spirulina Extract:Prepared at the 95th JECFA (2022) and published in FAO JECFA Monographs 30 (2022), superseding tentative specifications prepared at the 86th JECFA (2018) and published in FAO JECFA Monographs 22 (2018). An ADI “not specified” was established at the 95th JECFA (2022)

[9]The photo was taken by the Team from Binmei Biotechnology at the FIC Exhibition in March 2024

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