FSSAI Regulations For The Usage of Food Colours and Flavours

By Mayashree Acharya


Updated on: Jun 14th, 2024


2 min read

Food colours and flavouring agents are widely used to attract consumers. The effects of the usage of food colours on food are tremendous as they play a crucial role in the visual presentation of the food. In India, the FSSAI (Food Safety and Standards Authority of India) has approved certain food colours and flavours which are safe to use for consumption. 

Only the FSSAI permitted food colours and flavours can be used in food items. The FSSAI has provided the list of permitted food colouring and flavouring agents and their standards in the Food Safety and Standards (Food Product Standards and Food Additives) Regulations, 2011 (‘Regulations’).

FSSAI Approved Food Colouring Agents

The Regulations provide that only the following food colours can be used in any food article:

  • Carotene and Carotenoids, including:
    • Beta-carotene
    • Methyl ester of Beta-apo 8′ carotenoic acid
    • Beta-apo 8′- carotenal
    • Canthaxanthin
    • Ethyl ester of Beta-apo 8′ carotenoic acid
  • Chlorophyll
  • Caramel
  • Riboflavin (Lactoflavin)
  • Saffron
  • Annatto
  • Curcumin (Turmeric)

The Regulations provide that only the following synthetic food colours or a mixture can be used in food articles:

  • Red
  • Blue
  • Yellow 
  • Green

Standard Requirements of the Food Colouring Agents

Below are the standard specifications of the food colours as per the Regulations:


β-Carotene is obtained as red rhombic, almost quadratic plates from petroleum ether or dark violet hexagonal prisms when crystallised from a benzene methanol solution. The solubility parameter of β-Carotene is – soluble in benzene, chloroform and carbon disulphide; moderately soluble in cyclohexane, normal hexane, petroleum ether and oils, ether; practically insoluble in methanol and water. 

A solution of β-carotene in chloroform with antimony trichloride should be a dark blue and have maximum absorption at a 590 mμ wavelength. β-Carotene should have a minimum purity of 96.0%, and the maximum limit of metallic impurities can be as follow:

  • Arsenic – 3 ppm
  • Lead – 10 ppm 
  • Heavy metal – 40 ppm

β-Carotene should also meet the following requirements: 

  • Subsidiary colouring matter, per cent by weight – Max 3 
  • Sulphated ash per cent of total colouring matters – Max 0.1


Chlorophyll is the green pigment of plants extracted and used as a colouring matter for several food items. The material should be an intensely aqueous, dark green, ethanolic or oily solution of a chlorophyll degradation product. A chlorophyll solution in ethanol should be blue with deep red flourescence. It should be soluble in ether, ethanol, benzene and chloroform. It should be insoluble in water.

The maximum limits for metallic impurities of chlorophyll should be as follows:

  • Arsenic – 3 ppm 
  • Lead – 10 ppm 
  • Copper – 30 ppm 
  • Zinc – 50 ppm 

The material should also conform to the following requirements: 

  • Total combined phaeophytines and their magnesium complexes, per cent by weight – Max. 10 
  • Residual solvents, kg/mg, methanol, acetone, ethanol, hexane – 50
  • Dichloromethane -10


Riboflavin is an orange-yellow to yellow crystalline powder. It should be slightly soluble in water, sparingly soluble in alcohol, soluble in saline solution, 10% urea solution, dilute solution of alkali hydroxides, and practically insoluble in solvent ether and chloroform. 

A solution of 1 mg Riboflavin in 100 ml water is pale greenish-yellow colour in transmitted light. It has an intense yellowish green fluorescence that disappears upon adding sodium dithionite and alkalies or mineral acids.

The absorption maxima of the aqueous solution of Riboflavin should be at 220 to 371, 266, 225, and 444 mu. The material shall have a minimum purity of 97.0%, and a maximum limit of metallic impurities should be as follows: 

  • Arsenic – 5 ppm 
  • Lead – 20 ppm.


The caramel should be prepared from the food-grade carbohydrates or their combinations in the presence of food-grade alkalis, acids or salts. It can be any of the following four types:

  • Type-I – Plain caramel: It should be prepared by heating carbohydrates without or with alkalis, acids, or salts. No sulphite or ammonium compounds are used. 
  • Type-II – Caustic sulphite caramel: It should be prepared by heating carbohydrates without or with acids, alkalis or their salt with sulphite compounds. No ammonium compounds are used.
  • Type-III – Ammonia process caramel – It should be prepared by heating carbohydrates without or with acids, alkalis or their salt with ammonium compounds. No sulphites are used. 
  • Type-IV – Ammonia sulphite caramel – It should be prepared by heating carbohydrates without or with acids, alkalis or their salt with ammonium and sulphite compounds.


Annatto extract in oil contains various coloured components, the major one being bixin which can be present in Cis and Trans forms. Thermal degradation products of bixin can also be present. The material should be of the following two types: 

  • A solution in oil for usage in butter and other food products
  • A solution in water for usage in cheese and other food products 

The solubility requirement is as follows – Water soluble annatto contains a hydrolysis product of bixin, norbixin, in the form of potassium or sodium, as the significant colouring principle. 

The material should be derived only from the plant Bixa Orellana L. and should not contain extraneous colouring matter. It should be packed, processed, distributed and stored under hygienic conditions in licensed premises.

The material should conform to the following requirements: 

  • Annatto extract in oil, per cent by mass, expressed as norbixin, min – 0.24
  • Water-soluble annatto, per cent by mass, expressed as norbixin, min – 0.24 
  • Arsenic, max, mg/kg – 3
  • Lead, max, mg/kg – 10 
  • Copper, max, mg/kg – 30
  • Heavy metal, max, mg/kg – 40

FSSAI Approved Flavouring Agents

The flavouring agents used in food articles include flavour extracts, substances or preparations, which can impart flavouring properties like odour, taste, or both to food. As per the Regulations, flavouring agents can be of the following three types:

  • Natural flavours and flavouring substances – These are single substance and flavour preparations obtained exclusively by physical processes from vegetables acceptable for human consumption
  • Nature-identical flavouring substances – These are substances obtained synthetically or chemically isolated from aromatic raw materials, chemically identical to substances present in natural products intended for human consumption 
  • Artificial flavouring substances – These are substances which have not been identified in natural products intended for human consumption

The Regulations provide that the use of the following flavouring agents is prohibited in food articles: 

  • Dihydrocoumarin and coumarin
  • Tonka bean (Dipteryl adorat)
  • β-asarone and cinnamyl anthracite
  • Ethyl Methyl Ketone 
  • Estragole 
  • Eugenyl methyl ether 
  • Ethyl-3-Phenylglycidate 
  • Thujone and Isothujone α & β thujone.
  • Methyl β naphthyl Ketone 
  • Saffrole and Isosaffrole 
  • P.Propylanisole

Standard Requirements of the Flavouring Agents

The Regulations provide the following standards for flavouring agents used in food articles: 

Lactulose syrup: It can be used in milk-based formulations for infants only upon the advice of a physician. It should be 0.5% of the final food and be specified on the label. It can be used in bakery products with a maximum limit of 0.5% by weight.

Dimethyl Dicarbonate: Dimethyl Dicarbonate can be used in ready-to-drink beverages, fruit drinks, flavoured water, and isotonic/sports drink up to 250 mg/litre, subject to a maximum methanol content in the final product of 200 mg/litre.

Disclaimer: The materials provided herein are solely for information purposes. No attorney-client relationship is created when you access or use the site or the materials. The information presented on this site does not constitute legal or professional advice and should not be relied upon for such purposes or used as a substitute for legal advice from an attorney licensed in your state.

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