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Artificial colors: FDA won’t ban them but New Hope will

“Standards are a good thing.”

These wise words were uttered a few months back by Steve Taormina, New Hope Natural Media’s director of standards. Steve and I, along with several other New Hopers, were engaged in a healthy debate about the values that should guide which products the company allows to exhibit at Natural Products Expo and advertise in our publications and on NewHope360.

For me, Steve hit the nail on the head with his comments about the importance of a business setting and maintaining standards. Sure, New Hope could make more money if we allowed just any company to promote any product at our shows or in our publications—but we don’t. In fact, we spend money to maintain a high-quality standards program that vets every product to be exhibited at our shows or advertised in our publications to make sure that each complies with federal regulations, as well as with New Hope’s own rules regarding what is considered natural and appropriate for our shows and audiences.

As I see it, these standards—which have been in place since 1994—have helped shape the values of the broader natural products industry and set our offerings apart from the mainstream market. In the absence of government rules, New Hope’s standards also have helped to provide a real, working definition of the word natural for manufacturers, retailers and consumers.

Now, much to my delight as both a natural products consumer and a mother, New Hope is raising the standards bar one rung higher by officially banning foods containing artificial colors from exhibition at the Natural Products Expos. The rule—which is part of a phased approach to disallowing artificial ingredients in foodsat the shows—will go into effect at Natural Products Expo East 2012. (The coming ban on artificial dyes follows the kabosh the company put on products containing artificial sweeteners in 2008.)

As Don McLemore, New Hope’s vice president of standards, maintains, “Natural products should not contain any artificial colors.” Amen. If the U.S. Food and Drug Administration isn’t going to ban (or at least require a warning label on) products containing artificial colors, I’m proud that New Hope is.

As someone who has seen firsthand the negative effects of artificial colors on my 8-year-old son, I do everything I can to avoid buying anything made with synthetic food colors. Shopping natural brands at natural product stores is one way I accomplish this mission, and now New Hope’s ban on fake colors is going to make it easier for natural retailers to ensure that they do not stock products made with artificial dyes. Doing this, I believe, will help natural retailers win over the growing band of mommas like me who will no longer accept artificial ingredients in our foods and beverages.

Want to know more? Below is the document the New Hope Standards department recently released in preparation for its ban on Expo products containing artificial colors. It explains the move and provides guidance on those color additives that will—and will—not be allowed in foods (products labeled with a “Nutrition Facts” panel) at our shows, starting in Expo East 2012.

Natural Products Expo/SupplyExpo Ingredient Standards & Guidelines

INTRODUCTION: To assure the quality of the Natural Products Expo brand and to preserve the integrity and meaning of the term "NATURAL," New Hope Natural Media has introduced a phased-in process that will disallow products that contain artificial ingredients at Natural Products Expos. This effort represents our attempt to be responsive to the many comments, suggestions and concerns from industry manufacturers, distributors, brokers and retailers. These Ingredient Standards & Guidelines will be updated and refined over time, and exhibitors will be notified about the Ingredient Standards prior to contracting exhibit space.


Phase one: Artificial sweeteners in foods, was implemented and enforcement began at Natural Products Expo East 2008.

Phase two: Product Ingredients / Artificial Colorings / Foods / Guidelines/ Standards starting at Expo East 2012

Natural foods should not contain any artificial colors. The FDA regulates the use of Food, Drug and Cosmetic (FD&C) colors that are intensely colored compounds for use in foods. These are considered certifiable colors. Some non-certifiable colors, even though derived from natural sources, such as caramels and synthetic beta-carotene should not be used in natural foods. Some caramel colorings are processed with sulfite and/or ammonia and should not be used in natural foods. Oleoresins may use synthetic solvents for their production.



E Number







Beta carotene—natural identical



Synthetic—food should not be labeled as "all-natural"

Caramel coloring, Classes II, III and IV



Processed with ammonia and/or sulfites




Derived from the bodies of insects—should not be used in vegetarian products

FD&C Blue 1



Synthetic pigment

FD&C Blue 2



Synthetic pigment

FD&C Green 3



Synthetic pigment

FD&C Red 40



Synthetic pigment

FD&C Red 3



Synthetic pigment

FD&C Yellow 5



Synthetic pigment

FD&C Yellow 6



Synthetic pigment

Paprika oleoresin



Synthetic solvents used in production


Acceptable natural colorings include:

  • Annatto extract
  • Aronia (chokeberry) juice
  • Beet juice
  • Beta-carotene from carrots
  • Black currant juice
  • Carrot juice, purple/black
  • Elderberry juice
  • Grape juice
  • Grape skin extract
  • Lycopene
  • Paprika
  • Purple potato juice
  • Red radish juice
  • Red cabbage juice
  • Riboflavin
  • Saffron
  • Turmeric


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