Alas, More Spirulina Color Applications


Last year, FDA permitted spirulina for coloring of candies. This year, the agency is extending the use to food products.

Thanks to a helpful petition from colors supplier GNT USA (Tarrytown, NY), FDA now permits spirulina as a colorant of food products. The rule is effective as of last Tuesday, and it overrides previous legislation that restricted spirulina as a colorant to candies and gums.

Spirulina can now be used as a safe and effective colorant in 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).

Spirulina (Arthrospira platensis) is a cyanobacterium that is often harvested in open-air ponds. As its name suggests, the ingredient has blue and green pigment, and experts can extract these pigments for a diverse portfolio of blues and greens. But while the latest spirulina permissions are understandably exciting for many manufacturers, GNT USA reminds us that spirulina coloring is not entirely new to market. The ingredient has long been used in Europe, where it is considered a “colouring food.” In fact, GNT says it developed its spirulina coloring over 20 years ago.

FDA’s decision to authorize spirulina may have been slowed by a question of whether or not spirulina is an allergen-a topic that came up during the candies rule last summer.  In reviewing known protein allergens and phycocyanin (the coloring component in spirulina), FDA determined that “there is a low probability” of spirulina being an allergen when used to the extent of coloring. “We are not aware of any information that would cause us to change this conclusion,” the agency said.


Robby Gardner

Associate Editor

Nutritional Outlook magazine

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