Food colours are added to different types of commodities to increase their visual attractiveness or to compensate for natural colour variations. The use of these additives is strictly regulated in the European Union, the United States and many other countries worldwide. There is a growing concern about the safety of some commonly used legal food colourants and there is a trend to replace the synthetic forms with natural products. Additionally, a number of dyes with known or suspected genotoxic or carcinogenic properties have been shown to be added illegally to foods. Robust monitoring programs based on reliable detection methods are required to assure the food is free from harmful colours. The aim of this review is to present an up to date status of the various concerns arising from use of colour additives in food. The most important food safety concerns in the field of food colours are lack of uniform regulation concerning legal food colours worldwide, possible link of artificial colours to hyperactive behaviour, replacement of synthetic colours with natural ones and the presence of harmful illegal dyes - both known but also new, emerging ones in food. The legal status of food colour additives in the EU, US and worldwide is summarized. The reported negative health effects of both legal and illegal colours are presented. The European Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed notifications and US import alerts concerning food colours are analyzed and trends in fraudulent use of colour additives identified. The detection methods for synthetic colours are also reviewed.