Food color is often associated in the collective imagination to properties like flavor, taste, sensory qualities, and genuinity. While synthetic food dyes may cause several harmful effects to human health, and most of them are not used or allowed in food manufacturing according to the regulations of each country, the origin of food dyes are receiving greater attention for their safety, hence being more present in literature studies. This perspective aims at providing a current framework on food dyes and health relationship, throughout a literature quantitative research analysis approach, by highlighting the current knowledge, the main research lines and emerging strategies in an integrated and multidisciplinary manner.
A preliminary insight is offered in terms of definition, categorization, and legislation on food additives, as well as postulations for a near future in terms of natural and synthetic food dyes.
To confirm the interest and importance of research on food dyes (food colorants), a literature quantitative research analysis was carried out by means of Scopus database as a source to retrieve publications on food dyes and related health relationship. A total of 893 publications in the year range from 1962 to 2022 were retrieved and evaluated through the literature search and elaborated on. Among the main observations, it should be mentioned that a prevalence of the use of natural dyes in foodstuffs, replacing synthetic colorants is trending, prospectively suggesting their higher impact on processed food where they are progressively replacing those obtained from synthesis. Surveillance studies and exposure ones of synthetic of food dyes are being carried out. Moreover, the use of innovative food technologies and new extraction and stabilization techniques represent a great challenge. New direction is also the utilization of bio‐residues as source of food dyes.
Restricting the search in term of natural or synthetic food dyes, 390 publications were returned in the period 1980–2022 and were export and processed by VOSviewer software. A total of 301 terms were identified and are visualized as a term map and particularly the top 20 recurring terms are as follows: food dye, human/s, chemistry, food coloring agents, nonhuman, food color, antioxidant/s, anthocyanin/s, color, animals, unclassified drug, food additives, carotenoid, controlled study, metabolism, antioxidant activity, food additive. The search revealed the strict linkage between the chemistry of food dye and health, with particular emphasis to antioxidants, and compound class, i.e. anthocyanins, carotenoids and others.