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What makes the new jelly bears blue?

Blue is the colour of summer and recently the blue variant of jelly bears with blueberry flavouring reached the supermarket shelves. Time and again the question arose why there were no jelly bears of this colour. Now they’ve arrived. But what is the secret of the blue colour? How is it derived? What makes it special?

Bacteria as source of blue

Interest in natural colours has gained ground in recent years. Cyanobacteria (formerly referred to as bluegreen algae) have turned out to be an ideal source for the colour blue. More accurately they’re called phycocyanins, which belong to the proteins. The cyanobacterium Spirulina produces phycobiliproteins (Greek phykos = alga and Latin bilis = gall), which play a dominant part in photosynthesis where they produce phycocyanins. Because of their nutrient composition these bacteria have long been used as an ingredient in food, for example in fruit bars.

How and where are they produced?

Large-scale production takes place in open bioreactors using the cyanobacterium spirulina platensis. The dye can be easily extracted on account of its solubility in water. Pretreatment is not required; the bacteria need only be dried and subsequently ground. The main producer countries are Japan, Thailand, Taiwan, Mexico and the USA.

Long used in Asia

In Japan, Thailand and China the dye has been used for many decades. In Japan, the dye is used in items such as chewing gum, sweets, softdrinks, desserts, icecream, and also in cosmetics. According to EU criteria a colouring is a foodstuff and, therefore, requires no separate approval. In the USA the dye can be found under the name "spirulina extract" in lists of ingredients.

 

Source: Dr. Jörg Häseler, www.aid.de