The U.S. Food and Drug Administration added 87 firms to its Import Alert 45-02, which focuses on foods containing illegal or undeclared colors, in the first four months of 2011.   

The alert, "Detention without Physical Examination and Guidance of Foods Containing Illegal and/or Undeclared Colors," may present problems for many foreign food manufacturers, according to Benjamin England, owner of FDAImports.com LLC.

According to England all color additives in the U.S. must be approved by the FDA for each intended use. If an unapproved color is added to a food, the food is illegal in the U.S., and the FDA’s color additive approvals do not necessarily match the approvals of other countries or regions. A single violation can result in a foreign manufacturer being added to IA 45-02, and once on the list the FDA will detain all future food entries automatically and the importer or foreign manufacturer must prove the food complies with the law before the shipment will be released.

A petitioning process can get the company's name removed from the alert, said England, but the best way to avoid problems is to have formulations and labels reviewed by an expert prior to exporting products to the U.S. to ensure that they meet all necessary standards.