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Artificial Food Coloring: For Some It’s Not Black and White

April 5, 2011

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Advocacy group, Center for Science and the Pubic Interest (CSPI), asked the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to ban artificial food coloring because the dyes could affect children who are already hyperactive in a negative way, making their condition worse.

 The New York Times reports the FDA’s decision:

 “A government advisory panel concluded that there was no proof that dyes caused problems in most children, and that whatever problems they might cause in some children did not warrant a ban or a warning label beyond what is already required — a disclosure on the product label that artificial colors are present.”

Artificial colors like FD&C Yellow No. 6 and FD&C Blue No. 1 find their way into many packaged processed foods. The bright colors are alluring to the consumer who associates color with their enjoyment of certain foods.  Cupcake with sprinkles anyone? Specific colors are also associated with perceived flavor. Add yellow dye to vanilla pudding and consumers say it tastes like banana or lemon.

“Color is such a crucial part of the eating experience that banning dyes would take much of the pleasure out of life,” said Kantha Shelke, a food chemist and spokeswoman for the Institute of Food Technologists. “Would we really want to ban everything when only a small percentage of us are sensitive?”

Some food companies are getting on board with the “no-dye idea” by offering products that are free of artificial food coloring. Grocery chains Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s make selling foods with artificial colors against their policy.

As stated in the New York Times report, “…natural colorings have not proven to be a good alternative. They are generally not as bright, cheap or stable as artificial colorings, which can remain vibrant for years. Natural colorings often fade within days.”

Is food really meant to remain vibrant for years?

Are we playing mind games with our taste buds?

Can’t we find our ‘eye candy’ in all the rich vibrant colors found naturally in our produce aisle? 

What are your thoughts on this not-so-black-and-white issue?

Please share in the comments below.