The Chemistry of Colors

BlueFood Coloring

Brilliant Blue FCF or FD&C Blue # 1

1;Disodium bis[4-(N-ethyl-N-3-sulfonatophenylmethyl)aminophenyl]-2- sulfonatophenylmethylium
2;Bis[4-(N-ethyl-N-3-sulfophenylmethyl)aminophenyl]-2-sulfophenylmethylium disodium salt

         FD&C Blue No. 1, or Brilliant Blue FCF, is a triphenylmethane color. Triphenylmethane consists of three aromatic rings that are attached to a central carbon atom. This dye is water soluble and is poorly absorbed by the body, which means that more than 90 percent will be recovered in the feces unchanged, making it readily usable in most foods. The Average Daily Intake (ADI) reported by the National Academy of Science is 16 mg. An analysis of intakes in the United Kingdom showed that the average intake is at least 5,000 times less than the ADI.
        Many studies have been conducted on FD&C Blue No. 1, and it has shown no evidence of carcinogenicity and no adverse effects other than 15 percent less body weight. In addition, no adverse reproductive or developmental effects have been exhibited. The FDA has concluded the FD&C Blue No. 1 to be safe. It is one of the colors that the Hyperactive Children's Support Group recommends be eliminated from the diet of children, and has been prohibited in Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Norway, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland. Brilliant Blue FCF is a bright blue dye that finds use in beverages, dairy products, powders, jellies, confections, icings, syrups, extracts and condiments.

Why Brilliant Blue FCF is Blue:
    Molecules are made up of atoms linked together by sharing electrons.  Electrons in atoms and molecules are restricted to energy levels. This is somewhat like stairs in that you can occupy the level of a stair but not any level in between.
When electrons are spread out over many atoms, the energy levels become closer together.  The electrons in atoms and molecules can jump up energy levels if exactly the right amount of energy is supplied.  This amount of energy can be provided by electromagnetic radiation.
        Visible light is one form of electromagnetic radiation.  Small molecules, with little spreading out of electrons, have large energy steps and so require electromagnetic radiation of higher energy than visible light.  Consequently, visible light passes through such molecules and they appear transparent.  For larger molecules, if the electrons are spread out enough in the molecule, the energy levels for the electrons are close enough together that visible light has enough energy to make the electrons jump up a level.
        When this happens, the particular energy of light, which corresponds to a particular wavelength or color, is absorbed and disappears. The remaining light, lacking this color, shows the remaining mixture of colors as non-white light.
For molecules to spread electrons out enough to absorb visible light, several double bonds (=) must be present alternating with single bonds (-).  You can note this phenomenon in the structural diagram above.  The wavelength of light absorbed in the Brilliant Blue FCF corresponds to 630 nm.Page by Sandra Allen



Return to index page