A bright future: consumer confidence in colour ingredients1 November 2013
Ensuring the safety of colour ingredients used in popular consumer products, and maintaining the public’s confidence in safety, is the ultimate goal of the colour industry. Sarah Codrea, executive director of the International Association of Colour Manufacturers, reports.
At the International Association of Colour Manufacturers (IACM), the mission is to advance the interests of manufacturers, producers and users in the colour industry by demonstrating the safety of colours and promoting the industry's economic growth. The organisation understands that safety is of paramount importance to all consumers, and recently developed a set of critical objectives as part of a strategic planning process.
Protecting and expanding the worldwide use of colours
IACM is working with its members and government partners to positively influence regulatory development and strive for more regulatory consistency on an international level.
The industry faces a number of challenges to efficiently expand the worldwide use of colours. In the US, a colour additive petition is not applicant-specific, which means any company that invests the millions of dollars necessary to complete the US petition process has no competitive advantage related to the actual marketing of the material. IACM's Naturals Committee is working to identify those colours with the broadest industry support and move forward with colour additive petitions as a coalition. In the meantime, companies such as IACM member Mars have petitioned for the use of new colours, and spirulina extract was recently approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as a new natural blue for use in confectionery and chewing gum.
Adding to the challenge of new colour approvals, countries previously developed positive lists of accepted colours, but some countries, such as those in the EU, are moving toward an evaluation approach to colour approval. While the data requirements and concept are largely the same, the underlying philosophy of caution is very different and adds to the lack of consistency worldwide with new colour approvals.
IACM must also monitor for attempts to limit colour use that are not safety related. Last year, for example, it successfully advocated against an unnecessary tartrazine labelling proposal in Peru.
Interaction with regulatory bodies and global organisations
The organisation also maintains strong relationships with key federal and international agencies, in particular the US FDA, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), the US Department of Agriculture Foreign Agricultural Service (USDA FAS), and the Joint Food and Agriculture Organisation/World Health Organisation/Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA), who look to IACM staff and members as key scientific and regulatory experts for the international colour industry. IACM continues to leverage these relationships to positively influence regulatory development and strives for more regulatory consistency at an international level.
IACM participates in Emerging Markets Programme symposia, sponsored by the USDA FAS. In 2013, it sent representatives from IACM member companies Sensient and Colorcon to India, Thailand, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates to explain the strong and robust dataset that supports the safety of colours, offer information on the important and beneficial technical effects that colours provide, and advocate for global harmonisation of colour regulations and approval.
Enhancing confidence in the safe use of colour
Regulatory challenges continue to impact the colour industry, such as a patchwork of national and international regulations. Trade associations with active involvement from their member companies' dedicated regulatory associates are able to proactively anticipate regulatory developments to minimise any negative impact and/or maximise any potential benefit to the industry. Strengthening regulations on colours can support fair competition, and restore consumer confidence in the safety and labelling of colours. Through their involvement with IACM, companies are developing partnerships with other businesses that place a similar emphasis on participating in evolving regulations.
IACM was founded by colour industry leaders in 1972 as the Certified Colour Manufacturers Association (CCMA) to support the scientific and regulatory needs of the certified colour industry. It now represents both certified and exempt colour manufacturers - as well as consumer product companies that use colour - yet its focus on ensuring colour safety has not changed. Certified colours are synthetically produced, impart an intense, uniform colour and blend easily to create a variety of hues, while colours that are exempt from certification include pigments derived from natural sources such as vegetables, minerals or animals.
IACM also serves as a resource for its member companies, as well as consumers, the media and government officials, regarding the safe use of colours. As the regulatory environment for colours becomes increasingly complicated, companies are focusing internal talent on regulatory affairs and maximising relationships with trade associations.
Global harmonisation of standards and regulations
Although IACM is US-based, it advocates on behalf of the international colour industry, and for global harmonisation of colour regulations and standards. Harmonisation is especially important in today's global marketplace, as some colours are regulated differently in various countries, thereby negatively impacting trade opportunities.
IACM participates in the capacity of a non-governmental observer at the Codex Alimentarius Commission, particularly the Codex Committee on Food Additives, which considers colours for inclusion in the General Standard of Food Additives (GSFA).
Many developing countries, as well as those that are revising their food law, look to Codex standards for guidance, a practice that IACM encourages. However, the Codex process is very deliberate, and, as such, not all colours that are approved in the US and the EU have made it through the slow Codex approval process for inclusion in the GSFA. Since their omission from the GSFA is not due to safety concerns, IACM encourages countries to consider colour approvals in the US and the EU, as well as in the Codex GSFA, when developing colour regulations.