FDA has approved spirulina (Arthrospira platensis) as a natural blue colorant for candies and chewing gums. The decision is based on a color additive petition filed by Mars Inc. in January 2012.
Spirulina is a cyanobacteria with long history as a food and, more recently, as a dietary supplement. The ingredient gets its blue pigment from phycocyanins, which can be extracted from spirulina through a water extraction process. Because spirulina also contains high levels of chlorophyll, it may serve as a foundation for green color blends too.
FDA’s approval of spirulina is backed by multiple toxicity tests that were provided by Mars Inc. The agency is also setting limits for lead, arsenic, mercury, and a waterborne toxin called microcystin in any spirulina products intended for coloring.
With spirulina now an FDA-approved color, the doors are open for multiple other ingredient suppliers eager to sell their own spirulina color, including Chr. Hansen (Milwaukee), Valensa International (Eustis, FL), and GNT USA Inc. (Redwood City, CA).
Another FDA color petition is pending for the use of spirulina in all foods.