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HMRC internal manual

VAT Food

Items benefiting from the relief: what is food?: food ingredients and additives: colourings

In order to improve the appearance of mass-produced foodstuffs, many products contain added colouring matter specifically tailored for food use. Some, like annatto and cochineal are of natural (organic) origin, but most are synthetic coal tar derivatives. These colours have no nutritional value and may be used in the production of non-food commodities, such as cosmetics, where a similar high level of purity is required. They are standard-rated, unless supplied in retail packs for culinary use, or they are natural foodstuffs in their own right such as caramel, saffron, or turmeric, when they are zero-rated.