Wait, there is a healthy alternative to artificial food coloring? Yes, organic food coloring is real and a must have for some folks. Food coloring has gone through a lot of changes throughout the last few decades. Traditionally, food dye or coloring has been made by scientists into a form that is far from natural. But why?
Food colors are used in foods and drinks to make them more visually appealing, especially in products that are geared more towards children. However, it is not necessarily healthy for us to consume. Here is where organic food coloring comes into play.
What is Organic Food Coloring?
In recent years, there has been a huge spike when it comes to organic foods, including the use of organic food coloring in food and drink products. For this reason, there has been a movement towards changing the system by which organic food coloring is examined and approved.
Certified Organic Colors are those food coloring ingredients which are considered natural. They must be certified by an approved independent organic certification agency, which is based on regulated organic farming, manufacturing, labeling, handling, and distribution practices.
Certified Organic Food Colors are quite different than the “Organic Compliant” National List Colors. The following are important characteristics to note about Certified Organic Food Colors:
- There is permanent approval when it comes to organic products
- Solvent extraction is prohibited in manufacturing
- 3rd party certification is required
- A USDA Organic seal is permitted to be placed on the food or packaging
On the other side, colors that are considered “Organic Compliant” are those that have ingredients that may be from non-organically produced agricultural products. Not all natural food coloring is also considered to be “Organic”.
Organic Food Coloring vs. Food Dyes
Traditional food coloring dyes are labeled by the FDA to indicate the color and the level of brightness. The additives typically are combined with propylene glycol, propylparaben, and water.
Propylene glycol is a solvent that stabilizes ingredients that are in a synthetic product. It is found in food and in skin/beauty products. According to Wikipedia, “Chemically it (propylene glycol) is classed as a diol and is miscible with a broad range of solvents, including water, acetone, and chloroform.”
Propylparaben acts as a preserving agent when it is in a liquid. It has no smell or taste, and it prevents the growth of fungus and mold. It is a part of the paraben family. Yes, the same nasty chemical being found in breast cancer tissues and other alarming EDCs (Endocrine Disrupting Chemical) studies linking to more health issues, like a miscarriage.
“The study demonstrates that parabens may be more potent at lower doses than previous studies have suggested, which may spur scientists and regulators to rethink the potential impacts of parabens on the development of breast cancer…”
Synthetic red dye has these ingredients, plus fd&c (an abbreviation for food, drug, & cosmetics) reds 3 & 40. Synthetic green dye typically will contain the above ingredients, plus fd&c yellow 5 and fd&c blue 1. Synthetic yellow dye contains the above ingredients, as well as fd&c yellow 5 and fd&c red 40. Black dye contains sodium benzoate, phosphoric acid, water, fd&c blue 1, fd&c yellow 5, and fd&c red 40.
Synthetic green dye typically will contain the above ingredients, plus fd&c yellow 5 and fd&c blue 1. Synthetic yellow dye contains the above ingredients, as well as fd&c yellow 5 and fd&c red 40. Black dye contains sodium benzoate, phosphoric acid, water, fd&c blue 1, fd&c yellow 5, and fd&c red 40.
Synthetic yellow dye contains the above ingredients, as well as fd&c yellow 5 and fd&c red 40. Black dye contains sodium benzoate, phosphoric acid, water, fd&c blue 1, fd&c yellow 5, and fd&c red 40.
Black dye contains sodium benzoate, phosphoric acid, water, fd&c blue 1, fd&c yellow 5, and fd&c red 40.
While we are not diving too deep into this right now, let us pose a question. Does water, a synthetic organic compound, an Endocrine Disrupting Chemical and synthetic dye gummy bear sound tasty? Just wondering.
How Using Organic Food Coloring Benefits You
People can experience great benefits consuming food and drinks that contain naturally-derived or food based coloring versus a lab made solvent and dye also known as artificial food coloring (AFC).
No More Allergic Reactions
For one, there are some individuals who are sensitive to certain synthetic food dye (look up the “truth about Red 40”). Since there has been minimal research in regard to food coloring allergies, the use of natural dyes will make it possible to avoid certain allergies in this instance, as well as helping to pinpoint the ingredients to which an individual may be allergic.
Appreciation for Healthy Foods
Children will gain more of an appreciation for healthy foods when they are exposed to it in the form of additives that make a cereal, cookie, or other food items look more “fun”. If you can switch out foods that they already love for those that have natural or organic food coloring, it will be a win-win for the family.
Organic Food Dye Alternatives
There are several alternatives that come from nature that is used as food coloring dyes. Read on to learn just what may be in your food and drink with organic food dye.
Red Food Coloring
Some of the more popular ingredients that are mixed with natural food dye include currants, beetroot, carrots, cherries, and elderberry. Something that has been used to get red food pigment over the last several centuries is cochineal (ground insect), though it has mainly been replaced by synthetic dyes in foods.
Green Food Coloring
It is fairly easy to get the natural green food pigment. This is found in grasses and various other vegetation, as well as in mint.
Yellow and Orange Food Coloring
One of the main sources of natural yellow food pigment is the spice turmeric, carrots.
Black Food Coloring
A natural source of black food pigment is the black currant fruit.
More Organic Food Coloring Options
The following are other forms of natural food coloring that have been approved by the FDA:
• Grape juice color
• Dehydrated beets
• Purple potato juice
• Paprika color
• Saffron extract color
• Blueberry juice color
• Red cabbage extract color
• Pumpkin juice color
• Red radish extract color
• Chokeberry Aronia Juice Color
It sure is an exciting time for the development of a larger organic food coloring industry. Over the next few years, there will be improvements in regards to the manufacturing, approval, and labeling of such natural food dyes for our food and drink. Hopefully, we will all see more of it being offered soon.
FDA.gov. International Food Information Council (IFIC) and U.S. Food and Drug Administration. “Overview of Food Ingredients, Additives & Colors”