151 Brilliant black BN/PN

Posted 21 Oct 2023
151 Brilliant black BN/PN

What is Brilliant Black BN or Brilliant Black PN (E151), and where is it used?

Brilliant Black BN, also known as Brilliant Black PN or E151, is a synthetic food colourant commonly used to impart a deep black or dark brown hue to various food products [1]. It belongs to the class of azo dyes and is available in powder or granular form. Some common applications include flavoured beverages, confectionery, desserts, fish products, sauces and seasonings. Its rich, dark colour makes it an attractive choice for manufacturers seeking to enhance the visual appeal of their products.

Purported Health Implications 

While Brilliant Black BN is generally considered safe within established limits, there have been concerns about the potential health implications associated with its consumption.

  • Allergic Reactions: Some individuals may be sensitive or allergic to food dyes, including Brilliant Black BN. Allergic reactions to azo dyes can include itching, hives and skin rashes [2]. If you experience an adverse reaction from Brilliant Black BN, it is advisable to avoid its consumption and seek a healthcare professional. 

  • Potential Carcinogenicity: Some cell/animal studies have demonstrated a potential link between food dyes, including Brilliant Black BN, and cancer. Although, there is no evidence of these findings in humans [3].

  • Genotoxicity: Some research on cell models has indicated that Brilliant Black BN may be damaging to DNA. However, the significance of this finding remains unclear, and no evidence in humans [4,5].


Recommendations for Safe Consumption

  • Acceptable Daily Intake (ADI): The Joint FAO/WHO Expert  Committee on Food Additives  (JECFA) have established an ADI of 1 mg/kg bw/day for Brilliant Black BN [6]. Adhering to recommended limits ensures the safe consumption of Brilliant Black BN

  • Read Food Labels: Always scrutinize food product labels to identify the presence of Brilliant Black BN (E152). Regulatory agencies require manufacturers to list this additive on product labels when used in their products. Being label-savvy is the first step in making informed choices about what you consume.

  • Moderation: Consume products containing Brilliant Black BN in reasonable amounts. Avoid excessive consumption of foods with high concentrations of synthetic colourants to maintain a healthy dietary balance.

  • Prioritise Natural Alternatives: Consider choosing products that use natural alternatives to achieve black colouring. These alternatives include activated charcoal, which is safe to consume in small quantities and offers purported health benefits. 

  • Consult Healthcare Professionals: If you have specific concerns about food colourants, such as Brilliant Black BN, or known food allergies, it's wise to consult with healthcare professionals. They can provide personalized guidance and advice tailored to your individual health needs.

  • Different Legislations: Due to the potential health implications, Brilliant Black BN is prohibited as a food additive in some countries, such as the US, Australia and Norway [7]. Whereas, it is approved in the European Union, New Zealand and Australia [8,9].


  1. Silva MM, Reboredo FH, Lidon FC. Food Colour Additives: A Synoptical Overview on Their Chemical Properties, Applications in Food Products, and Health Side Effects. Foods. 2022 Jan 28;11(3):379–9.

  2. Monisha B, Sridharan R, Kumar P, Rangasamy G, Krishnaswamy VG, Subhashree S. Sensing of azo toxic dyes using nanomaterials and its health effects - A review. Chemosphere.. 2023 Feb 1;313:137614–4.

  3. Villaño D, García‐Viguera C, Mena P. Colors: Health Effects. Encyclopedia of Food and Health. 2016 Jan 1;265–72.

  4. Macioszek VK;Kononowicz AK. The evaluation of the genotoxicity of two commonly used food colors: Quinoline Yellow (E 104) and Brilliant Black BN (E 151). Cellular & molecular biology letters. 2023;9(1). 

  5. EFSA Panel on Food Additives and Nutrient Sources added to Food (ANS). Scientific Opinion on the re-evaluation of Brilliant Black BN (E 151) as a food additive. EFSA Journal. 2010;8(4):1540.

  6. ‌JECFA  (WHO/FAO  Joint  Expert  Committee on  Food  Additives), 1981. 25th  report  Toxicological evaluation of some food additives. WHO Food Additives Series, 16.

  7. U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA). Color Additive Status List. 2021.

  8. European Union. Commision Regulation (EC) No 1333/2008 of the European Parliament and of the Council on food additives. 2008, Dec 16.

  9. Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ). Food additives - numerical list. 2019‌.




We do our best to source robust information from a number of credible sources. There is, however, a large amount of information on various aspects of nutritional elements along with claims in terms of their contribution to helping in body health which may contradict the above.