Food colors are a type of food additive used to increase the visual appeal of food or drinks. They come in forms of liquids, powders, granules, gels, pastes, and more. Food dyes are widely used in commercial production of foods and beverages. The largest sources of color additives in an average diet include soft drinks, frozen desserts, candy, baked goods and dairy products. Children especially love bright, vibrant colors and are increasingly becoming targets for food manufacturers.
Like other food additives, food coloring substances may be classified as either natural or synthetic. Natural food dyes are produced from plant, animal, and mineral sources, while artificial colorants are synthesized from petroleum.
Is Food Coloring Safe?
The supermarket shelves are packed with brightly-colored cupcakes, baked goods, gelatin desserts, soft drinks and many other brightly-colored foods, especially during holidays. Many of these products are geared toward children, who are especially sensitive to synthetic food coloring.
Parents may unknowingly cause health problems for children by giving them foods that contain artificial food dyes. Many parents experienced that and found that after consuming such foods, children’s behavior changed and became unpredictable. This may be unwittingly caused by the chemicals used in producing synthetic dyes.
Many of currently approved dyes raise health concerns and, in some people, can cause side effects and adverse reactions. Some commonly used artificial food dyes have been linked to behavioral problems, allergies, and various types of cancers. Consumption of widely used food colors, such as Yellow 5, Yellow 6, and Red 40, have been associated with hyperactivity and behavioral issues in young children.
Some artificial food colorings are still in use, despite being linked to harmful side effects. Once you consider the possible side effects of artificial food dyes, it makes sense to completely avoid them and use natural alternatives. To stay away from artificial dyes, you should limit the amount of highly processed foods in your diet and opt for fresh foods that have high nutritional value. Check labels carefully and avoid products that contain additives with a combination of colors and numbers in their name.
Natural Food Colors
Natural food colors provide an option to add colorfulness to foods without using toxic chemicals. They are considered a safe alternative to the chemically-loaded synthetic food dyes that are usually available to buy at the grocery store. Natural color additives are obtained primarily from natural sources, which include fruits, vegetables, seeds, leaves, insects, algae, etc.
Natural food dyes are gaining increasing popularity with consumers’ growing preference for natural products. With the growing concern about the safety of artificial food coloring, more and more people are switching to safer alternatives. Parents want to be able to decorate birthday cakes and holiday cookies with their kids without putting extra junk in their bodies or feeling sick afterward.
Natural color additives are especially valuable for kids who are sensitive to artificial dyes.
Artificial Versus Natural Food Colorings
Natural food colors are not likely to be harmful to your health. They offer additional benefits of biologically active compounds like vitamins, minerals, flavonoids, chlorophyll, and other cancer-fighting antioxidants.
Artificial food dyes don’t add nutritional value to the food. These chemicals may have harmful side effects and could cause health problems in adults or children.
Artificial food dyes are more stable, allowing food to sit on shelves longer, which is beneficial for food manufacturers.
Natural food dyes are less stable and less consistent than artificial ones. They are sensitive to heat and light, which may result in a shorter shelf life. Natural dyes are prone to degradation at high temperatures, resulting in less vibrant colors. You need to use them during the first few months after purchase as they will fade after a certain time. Don’t buy in large quantities because you might be disappointed when they turn out dull.
Natural color additives result in less intense colors and their range of shades is limited compared to the vivid pigmentation you will get with artificial food dyes. They usually offer pastel and slightly duller colors, which are less likely to attract customers.
Artificial food colors are generally cheaper because they are less expensive to produce. Natural dyes are more expensive and you need to use a larger quantity to get the color you desire. However, when used at higher levels, natural colors may influence taste, odor, or flavor of the food.
Purpose of Food Coloring
Food dyes are used in food preparation for several reasons including:
1) Aesthetic Appeal
Color additives give food an inviting look, making it more attractive and visually appealing to customers. Sellers use a variety of food dyes to create a fresh, attractive looking food to encourage consumers to buy it. Sometimes, coloring agents are added to foods to offset the loss of natural pigments due to exposure to light, air, or high temperature during processing or storage. Consumers are less likely to buy something when it looks colorless and unattractive. Sellers especially pay attention to adding vibrant, decorative colors to fun foods to make it more attractive to children and their parents.
2) Easy Identification of Food
Color additives enhance the colors that occur naturally in the food and help consumers visually identify products. As it is the first thing the buyer sees, color has a great influence on the perception of flavor and taste. Consumers use colors to identify a food, judge the quality, or to determine the taste of a food.