Category Archives: Artificial Colors

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Types of produce for natural food coloring

A large portion of the foods that we consume contain artificial food colorants. Many of these artificial food dyes have been banned for use in food manufacturing in the United Kingdom, Norway and other European countries. However, they are still considered safe for use in the United States by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Thankfully, there is a growing number of various concerned groups who heed the warnings of numerous reports linking artificial food colorants to a myriad of health problems. Health-conscious consumers, for instance, actively take matters into their own hands and opt for natural food colorants. Some food manufacturers are giving in to the demands of these consumers, along with the outcry of health advocates and medical communities. Kraft, General Mills, Nestlé and a few more companies have pledged to phase the use of synthetic food colorants out in their manufacturing process.

While FoodFacts.com joins the American public in celebrating the ingenuity of the country’s confectioners during National Candy Month, we maintain that you should take caution in consuming sweet treats that are filled with artificial food colorants. This month, we shared important information of two of the most commonly used artificial food dyes according to the Center for Science in the Public Interest, Red Dye #40 and Yellow Dye #5, including the risks they pose to our health.

Staying away from vibrant, artificial food dyes doesn’t mean you’re left with dull, colorless foods. The great news is, you can make your own natural food dyes from produce. In the previous blog post, we shared a recipe for homemade red and yellow food dyes made from raspberries and mangoes, respectively. Today, we’re sharing other types of produce that you can use to make natural food colorants. After all, June isn’t just all about the candies; it’s also National Fresh Fruits and Vegetables Month!

Red and Pink

  • Beets
  • Pomegranate

Yellow

Blue  and Purple

  • Blueberries
  • Blackberries
  • Radicchio
  • Red cabbage

Green

  • Spinach
  • Matcha powder

Orange

  • Carrots
  • Paprika

Bear in mind that there are different processes in making your own natural food colorants, depending on the type of produce you decide to use. Homemade natural food dyes are boiled, puréed or dissolve with vinegar.

If you don’t have the do-it-yourself bone in you, there are brands of natural food coloring that you can easily purchase from grocery stores. Use the All My Food Facts app to see their health scores. Get the app on iTunes, Google Play and Amazon!

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Yellow Dye #5

Earlier this month, FoodFacts.com shared some known facts about Red Dye #40, the most commonly used artificial food coloring (AFC) according to the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI). Before National Candy Month comes to a close, we would like to bring our readers’ attention to another commonly used AFC, Yellow Dye #5.

Yellow Dye #5 or tartrazine is a food colorant derived from coal tar. There have been many publications that extensively discussed the harmful effects of this colorant. Toxicology, in particular, published the findings that tartrazine causes disruption of estrogen in humans, which essentially affects the hormonal balance that can lead to a myriad of health problems.

Because of the potential harmful effects it poses to the body, Yellow Dye #5 is banned in many European countries such as Norway and Austria. However, its use in the United States has only been regulated, albeit to a certain extent, by the Federal Drug Administration (FDA). Yellow Dye #5 is widely used in the country in the manufacturing of potato chips, candies, soda and “fruit” drinks, and even pet food.

Here are the reported health effects of Yellow Dye #5:

Allergic reactions

Reports state that consumption of candies and other foods with Yellow Dye #5 triggered hypersensitivity to chemicals such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID). Other sources say that asthma is also among the allergic reactions caused by Yellow Dye #5.

Behavioral problems

Like Red Dye #40, Yellow Dye #5 can cause hyperactivity and other behavioral problems in children. Some of the behavioral problems include, but not limited to, impulsive behavior, lack and/or loss of concentration and inability to control activity.

Cancer and other health risks

Yellow Dye #5 and many other AFCs are reported to be tainted with cancer-causing contaminants. Because of the hormonal imbalance side effect, Yellow Dye #5 may cause adverse effect on male potency, genital size and sperm count. Some reports also say that the said imbalance can cause breast development and even breast cancer in men.

As always, FoodFacts urges consumers to check food labels for Yellow Dye #5 and other AFCs. Here are some of the names that Yellow Dye #5 go by:

  • Tartrazine
  • FD&C Yellow 5
  • Yellow 5
  • E102
  • C.I. 19140
  • Acid Yellow 23
  • Food Yellow 4
  • trisodium 1-(4-sulfonatophenyl)-4-(4-sulfonatophenylazo)-5-pyrazolone-3-carboxylate)

Use the All My Food Facts app to check food labels. Get it on iTunes, Google Play and Amazon!

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It’s time to rethink the snacks we put in our children’s travel bags

Summer traveling for families doesn’t just mean making new memories made up of fun activities and amazing adventures. For many, it also means carefree eating (read: disregarding nutritious foods and mindless munching unhealthy snacks). More often than not, parents pack their children’s bags with treats that may be filling, but are poor in nutrition and even pose risks to their health.

FoodFacts.com recently stated in a recent blog post that 43% of products marketed for children contain artificial food coloring, based on the new study published on Clinical Pediatrics. Many consumers are unaware that artificial food additives used to enhance color and flavor, and prolong shelf life are made from by-products of petroleum. You read that right – petroleum, that liquid mixture mined from the earth and refined to produce gasoline. So, before you head off to your family getaway this summer, you may want to rethink those bags of candies and chips you are packing for your children.

While we only discussed the known facts about Red Dye #40, it’s also worth noting other food colorants that are in our foods: Blue Dye #1, Blue Dye #2, Citrus Red Dye #2, Green Dye #3, Red Dye #3, Yellow Dye #5 and Yellow Dye #6. According to various studies, artificial food dyes can cause serious health problems including, but not limited to, the following:

  • Hyperactivity and other behavioral problems
  • Allergic reactions
  • Damage in chromosomes
  • Organ damage
  • Birth defects
  • Cancer
  • Obesity
  • Asthma
  • Diabetes
  • Hypoglycemia

When it comes to packing food for children, it wouldn’t hurt to grab ideas from well-known chefs. Take these turkey rolls that restaurateur and celebrity chef, Richard Blais, packs for his daughter, for instance. They’re tasty and healthy, and your kids can take them anywhere.

Barring any restrictions (such as quarantine regulations in specific borders, transportation rules and so on), here are healthy snacks you should be putting in your children’s travel pack:

  • Fresh or dried fruits
  • Sliced vegetables
  • “Good” candies
  • Raw nuts and trail mix
  • Homemade snacks like the aforementioned turkey rolls, healthy muffins and granola with dried fruits concoctions

Download the All My Food Facts app to find out if your favorite travel snack is good for you! Get it on iTunes, Google Play and Amazon.

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Red Dye #40

Food dyes are added to our foods to make them look more appetizing. There are actually plenty of natural food dyes available for our consumption, such as beets, spinach and turmeric. However, natural food dyes are highly sensitive to light and heat. Their colors, as well as taste, may be altered dramatically at any given phase of the food manufacturing process, including the final packaging and delivery stages.  This is one reason why food manufacturers generally prefer artificial food dyes over natural food colorants.

Artificial food dyes are more iridescent and more shelf-stable than natural food dyes. They also come in each of the primary colors, therefore allowing manufacturers to mix them up and produce a wide array of other hues.

Red Dye #40 is the most commonly used artificial food coloring, according to Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI). It should be of no surprise to learn that it appears in numerous candies. As a matter of fact, candies that suggest any fruit content are most likely to have the said colorant. Red Dye #40 is actually present in other foods that are neither red nor bright. Some of them include, potato chips, barbecue sauce and peanut butter.

Whether natural or synthetic, most of the dyes that we ingest are excreted from our bodies. However, FoodFacts.com wants to remind you of what health experts and advocates alike have been saying for a long time: Red Dye #40 has potential to cause serious harm to the body.

Here are some quick facts released in the recent years about Red Dye #40:

  • The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates that manufacturers disclose the existence of Red Dye #40 in their products on their labels. However, the FDA doesn’t require them to specify how much.
  • The CSPI reports that Red Dye #40 and other artificial food dyes can cause allergic reactions in some people.
  • Research shows that Red Dye #40 can cause hyperactivity and other behavioral problems in children.
  • 43% child-oriented products contain Red Dye #40 and other artificial food dyes.
  • Red Dye #40 contains p-Cresidine, which the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services believes to be cancer-causing.
  • Despite the outcry of CSPI, health advocates and consumers, which includes a petition to ban certain artificial food dyes, there is still no clear consensus from the FDA that Red Dye #40 is toxic.

It is highly recommended that you take caution in consuming foods that contain Red Dye #40. Below are other names that the said colorant go by:

  • FD&C Red No. 40
  • Allura Red
  • Red 40
  • Red No. 40
  • FD and C Red No. 40
  • Allura Red AC
  • C.I. 16035
  • C.I. Food Red 17

FoodFacts.com has always made it explicit that consumers like you be proactive in learning the ingredients contained in your foods. Use the All My Food Facts app to check food labels. Get it on iTunes, Google Play and Amazon!

Food manufacturers turn to natural sources for a new take on color

BN-LM632_INGRED_P_20151130161811FoodFacts.com is always happy and excited to hear about a major food manufacturer pledging to remove artificial colors and flavors from its products. As they strive to meet the goals they’ve set, we’re seeing food manufacturers turn to natural sources for a new take on color. It can be quite a challenge for them and require huge amounts of testing and research. While consumers DON’T want artificial colors and flavors in their foods, they’re a little picky about things like taste and texture – as they should be. When they’ve become accustomed to certain flavors and textures, it’s on the manufacturer to replicate them with better, more natural ingredients. And while this can be a cumbersome process, one might say that they never would have had to commit to such a complicated undertaking if they hadn’t resorted to artificial everything to begin with.

Food scientists at General Mills Inc. have spent years testing hundreds of combinations of fruits, vegetables and spices to replace the artificial food coloring in Trix. Still, they couldn’t find matches for the neon-green or turquoise corn puffs in the multihued breakfast cereal.

In consumer tests, “Some people told us they hadn’t seen that color turquoise in any food besides Trix, so we knew even if we could match it, it wouldn’t look natural,” said Kate Gallager, a cereal developer at General Mills. She decided to leave out both colors in the new cereal with natural colors and flavors to be launched in January.

At the General Mills’ lab here, researchers are responding to Americans increasingly rejecting artificial flavorings, dyes, and preservatives and demanding food with ingredients that they can find in their own pantries.

The phenomenon has roiled the food industry in recent years as reconstructing recipes, especially of packaged-food items, isn’t a piece of cake. It requires consumer food companies to find acceptable alternatives and to manage any side effects, from higher costs to unintended changes to taste or texture that could risk alienating loyal consumers.

The new environment is frustrating for some in the food industry after decades of technological advances to make packaged food cheaper, longer lasting and more flavorful.

Candy maker Hershey Co. said in February that it would begin swapping out ingredients to create a “simpler, shorter” list of items that consumers “recognize and trust.” Some changes were relatively easy, like switching to cane sugar from genetically modified beet sugar.

But removing emulsifiers like polyglycerol polyricinoleate required adding more cocoa butter so that the chocolate would continue to flow into the molds properly. That increased cost and added trace amounts of fat.

“It is a little more complicated when you’re not a corner chocolate shop,” said Will Papa, Hershey’s chief of research and development.

Colors offer varying levels of difficulty. Blue and green are among the most challenging colors to replicate because of the instability of similar colored fruit juices when exposed to heat or different acidity levels.

Ferrara Candy Co. tried 50 different formulations over eight months to find colors from natural sources that worked in its gummy bears before settling on spirulina extract and carrot juice to get green and orange colors, respectively, said Jamie Mattikow, Ferrara’s chief commercial officer. Failed attempts made the gummy bears less gummy.

Kraft Heinz Co. was able to develop new coloring for its iconic macaroni and cheese using turmeric, paprika and annatto extract from seeds of achiote trees. Online reviews indicate consumers don’t notice a change in flavor. But eliminating preservatives shortened the product’s shelf life to 8½ months from 10.

In years past, some efforts to go natural fell flat. John Ruff, former head of research and development at Kraft, recalls the company in the 1990s trying a version of Kool-Aid colored with natural sources. It was pulled because of poor sales.

The industry veteran says the fear of artificial dyes and other added ingredients lacks scientific basis. “Consumers have been pushing for this, and the food industry hasn’t done enough to push back and explain that these ingredients are just as safe, and in some cases safer,” said Mr. Ruff, also a former president of the Institute of Food Technologists, a nonprofit group that promotes food science. Sodium bicarbonate, for instance, may sound alarming but it is just baking soda, he said.

In the past decade or so, a wave of consumer advocacy groups, food writers, bloggers and other critics have said these ingredients—even when approved by the Food and Drug Administration—are unhealthy or unsafe, fueling demands for simpler food. Sales of many mainstream brands that make products with artificial ingredients have suffered while those of smaller natural-food labels have grown.

Large food companies are competing to respond.

General Mills made its pledge in June to cut artificial colors and flavors from its cereals by the end of 2017. Rival Kellogg Co. announced plans in August to remove synthetic food dyes from cereals such as Froot Loops and its Nutri-Grain bars by 2018, though it still relies on artificial food coloring called Red 40 and Yellow 6 for its Pop-Tarts.

For Trix, General Mills tested each potential new color by putting it in milk and cooking it in pancake batter. For a vibrant red, it tried tomatoes, but the taste was too strong. Beets turned dark purple when heated. Spinach stayed a nice green color in milk, but turned grayish olive when cooked. Other ingredients that passed those tests—like strawberries—made the corn-puff dough too watery.

After dropping two colors, the new Trix cereal has purple, orange, yellow and deep-red puffs, and has 10 more calories per serving from the added fruit juices.

“It is about finding the right balance of getting that color we want without having to completely change the formula,” Ms. Gallager said. “We ate a ton of cereal.”

Well, Ms. Gallager, we ARE happy to see you taking natural color formulations so seriously. But we don’t feel too badly for your company. And while Mr. Ruff wants us to believe that all the hoopla over artificial colors is really only hoopla not based in scientific fact, we think that maybe he’s never seen a small child after eating a bowl full of artificial food color soaked in milk for breakfast. It isn’t pretty.

We’re making progress. It’s not enough, but it is progress. When General Mills removes artificial colors and artificial flavors from ALL its products it will be even better progress. But the job still won’t be done, even then. At that point, General Mills will probably turn to natural flavors to replace the artificial flavors and it may or may not remove other controversial ingredients from its recipes. Things like BHT, high-fructose corn syrup and polysorbate 80 are rampant in the processed foods lining the shelves of our grocery stores.

Don’t get us wrong. FoodFacts.com doesn’t want to be seen as the negative nelly of progress when it comes to food manufacturers taking small steps forward to improve the quality of their foods. We’re happy they’re doing these things. But we think it’s also important to acknowledge that we’ve got a long way to go from here.

http://www.wsj.com/articles/how-big-food-is-using-natural-flavors-to-win-consumer-favor-1448989427

Dunkin’s new Tropical Mango Smoothie … a great way to beat the heat?

1435117835051Summer is in full swing here in the U.S. Depending on where you live, mid-July can bring 100 degree temperatures and the kind of humidity that can make walking to your car feel like walking around inside a steam room. FoodFacts.com knows that at this time of year so many of us are looking for ways to cool down and beat the heat.

To try and help us do that, Dunkin Donuts has just introduced their new Tropical Mango Smoothie. Just the use of the word smoothie conveys the idea of a healthier beverage. That may have been true a while back, but these days you really never know what’s going on with any new food or beverage introduction until you take a closer look. So let’s explore the Tropical Mango Smoothie.

Nutrition Facts
Calories:                 260
Fat:                          2 grams
Saturated Fat:       1 gram
Sugar:                     50 grams

There are 12.5 teaspoons of sugar in the small size (that’s the only one available on the website for nutrition facts). Cooling down doesn’t mean we need to load up on sugar and this smoothie really goes overboard with sweetness. Now let’s see what Dunkin has chosen to include in the smoothie recipe.

INGREDIENTS: Water; Yogurt: Pasteurized and Cultured Skim Milk, Sugar, Cream, Nonfat Dry Milk, Stabilizer (Tapioca Starch, Carrageenan, Locust Bean Gum), Yogurt Cultures: Streptococcus salivarius subsp. thermophilus, Lactobacillus delbrueckii subsp. bulgaricus; Tropical Mango Flavored Concentrate: Water, Mango Puree Concentrate, Sugar, Passion Fruit Puree, Natural Flavors, Citric Acid, Ascorbic Acid, Yellow 5, Yellow 6; Diced Pineapple; Diced Peaches (Peaches, Ascorbic Acid, Citric Acid and Malic Acid to promote color retention); Liquid Cane Sugar: Pure Cane Sugar, Water, Potassium Sorbate (Preservative).

While the list isn’t overweighed with controversial ingredients, we really don’t like the idea that there are artificial colors included in the list. We’re don’t understand why it was necessary. There’s actual fruit in here – mango puree, passion fruit puree, pineapple and peaches. All of which are beautifully colored by nature. We’re assuming Dunkin didn’t think it would be yellow enough to be attractive to consumers, so including artificial color made sense. We just don’t think like that.

We’ll be turning to other cooling beverages this summer to keep ourselves from overheating. We still believe that iced water and freshly brewed iced tea are better options in the midst of rising temperatures. And if we want a smoothie, we can mix one up ourselves without Yellow 5 and Yellow 6. We’re sure we’ll like the resulting color just fine.

http://www.dunkindonuts.com/dunkindonuts/en/menu/beverages/frozenbeverages/coolatta/tropical_mango_smoothie.html

No more artificial flavors and colors for General Mills

TrixIf you are among the many thousands of parents who desperately avoid the cereal aisle when your little ones are shopping with you, you’re not alone. That cereal aisle is a mine field full of sugar and artificial everything. FoodFacts.com has done our fair share of wrangling with small children to remove that box of Lucky Charms from their tight grip. We know the story. The kids see the cereal on a television commercial. They play branded games on the cereal’s website. They come with you to the store and the boxes of the cereals we don’t want our kids to have are the ones that are easiest for them to reach. The packaging is brightly colored and features fun characters the kids are already familiar with. And then you’ve got a problem.

General Mills is the latest food manufacturer committed to helping you with that problem by 2017 Trix, Lucky Charms and other iconic cereals are getting a natural upgrade in the latest bid by a major food company to create healthier products.

General Mills (GIS) said Monday that it will phase out artificial flavors and colors from all of its cereals by 2017. The announcement is the latest from an ever-growing group of food retailers vowing to ax artificial ingredients, including Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, Panera, Kraft Foods Group and Subway.

“We’ve continued to listen to consumers who want to see more recognizable and familiar ingredients on the labels and challenged ourselves to remove barriers that prevent adults and children from enjoying our cereals,” said Jim Murphy, president of General Mills cereal division, in a statement.

Packaged-food companies are losing market share and seeing revenue fall as consumers turn toward brands known for less processed, simpler, more authentic food. Many companies are trying to draw back customers’ attention by redoing products with fewer complex ingredients and taking stands against additives like antibiotics in meat.

Those that don’t will likely lose customers, says Kelly O’Keefe, a brand management professor at Virginia Commonwealth University.

“They need to be investing, they need to be changing out their product lines with better ingredients and they need to do it very quickly,” he says. “In the next two to three years, if you’re not moving in the right direction you’re going to see those brands fading rapidly into obscurity.”

General Mills cereals such as Trix and Reese’s Puffs will now be made with fruit and vegetable juices and natural vanilla. Trix will lose some colors in the process. The company began reformulating it about three years ago, and when the new version rolls out this winter, it will have just four colors instead of six. Blue and green didn’t make the cut because the company hasn’t identified a suitable natural alternative.

“We’re continuing to work on them, but they didn’t deliver on that vibrant color that we expect from Trix,” says Kate Gallager, a General Mills cereal developer. Reese’s Puffs, also rolling out this winter, will no longer be artificially colored, but Gallager says the difference is barely noticeable. The recipe changes will only affect cereals sold in the U.S. and Canada.

General Mills, whose cereals include Corn Chex, Lucky Charms, Cocoa Puffs, Wheaties and Fiber One, declined to say how much it’s investing to upgrade ingredients, but the cost won’t be passed along to consumers, says spokesman Mike Siemienas.

Though consumers will likely eventually have to pay for all the ingredient changes food companies are making, O’Keefe says.

“(Companies) might be willing to take a slightly shallower profit for a couple years, but ultimately, if they’re not passing along the cost to the consumers, they’re not staying in business.”

Artificial ingredients are already absent from 60% of General Mills cereals, the company said. They either never had them or they were already replaced.

Reformulating cereals with marshmallows will be a focus next year, says the company, adding this may take longer than grain-heavy cereals. General Mills plans to have more than 90% of the cereal portfolio artificial-free by the end of 2016, with 100% free by the end of 2017.

The hardest part about switching from artificial ingredients to natural ingredients is maintaining consistent flavor and texture, according to Gallager. Natural dyes like turmeric for yellow, paprika for red and fruit and vegetable concentrates can sometimes impart too much flavor or don’t produce colors that are as bold.

Beyond cereal, General Mills says it’s already transforming multiple product lines to make them healthier.

So by 2017, Lucky Charms will be magically delicious without artificial colors and flavors. Depending on the other ingredients, you may or may not decide to allow for the inclusion of that adorable leprechaun in your food pantry. But you will have a little less to worry about. And grocery shopping with the kids may get a little easier.

http://www.usatoday.com/story/money/2015/06/22/general-mills-artificial-ingredients-cereal/29101165/

Subway gets fresher dropping artificial flavors, colors and preservatives by 2017

Subway IngredientsOver the years, we’ve come to associate Subway with its “Eat Fresh” slogan. The chain has always been portrayed as a healthier option, setting itself apart from burgers and chicken sandwiches and french fries. And we all remember Jared Fogle … the “Subway guy” who lost a significant amount of weight eating Subway turkey subs and has kept that weight off almost 20 years later. But even with all that, Subway has always been a fast food chain of sorts, fresher food or not, as evidenced by some of the not-so-healthy ingredients in their foods.

But Subway is also a chain that has listened to its consumers. In early 2014, Subway announced the removal of azodicarbonamide from its breads and rolls. That was a big step and went a long way to justify that “Eat Fresh” slogan.

Now Subway wants you to eat even fresher at its locations.

The sandwich chain told the Associated Press it will remove artificial flavors, colors and preservatives from its menu in North America by 2017. Whether that can help Subway keep up with changing attitudes about what qualifies as healthy remains to be seen.

Elizabeth Stewart, Subway’s director of corporate social responsibility, said in an interview that ingredient improvement has been an ongoing process over the years. More recently, she said the chain has been working on removing caramel color from cold cuts like roast beef and ham. For its turkey, Subway says it plans to replace a preservative called propionic acid with vinegar by the end of this year.

Among its toppings, Stewart said Subway is switching to banana peppers colored with turmeric instead of the artificial dye Yellow No. 5. Without providing details, she said the chain is also working on its sauces and cookies.

The purging of artificial ingredients is quickly becoming the norm among major food companies, which are facing pressure from smaller players that tout their offerings as more wholesome.

Subway is facing evolving definitions for what qualifies as healthy, said Darren Tristano, an analyst for Technomic. While older generations looked at nutritional stats like fat and calories, he said younger generations are more concerned about qualities like “local,” ”organic” and “natural.”

“Change has come so fast and rapidly, consumers are just expecting more and more,” Tristano said.

And although Subway markets itself as a fresher option, he noted that people don’t necessarily see it as the healthiest or best product around.

Tony Pace, Subway’s chief marketing officer, noted the chain is already seen as a place for low-fat options, but that it needs to keep up with changing customer attitudes.
“As their expectations go up, we have to meet those expectations,” he said.

Pace said the use of simple ingredients is becoming a “necessary condition” to satisfy customers, but that it won’t be enough on its own to drive up sales.

Subway is continuing to listen to the voices of its consumers. FoodFacts.com is confident that those consumers will appreciate their efforts to improve the quality and healthfulness of the foods they serve. Every food manufacturer, fast food chain and fast casual chain needs to remember the old adage, “the customer is always right,” and act accordingly.

http://nypost.com/2015/06/04/eat-fresher-subway-drops-artificial-ingredients/

Keeping artificial food colors away from your holiday baking

LL13foodcolor_croppedWe’re in a most colorful season! We’ve decked the halls of our homes with red, green, gold and silver. Our windows and lawns are adorned with multi-colored lights. The holidays are upon us with every shade of every festive color we can think of! Often, though, those colors extend to our holiday baking. Holiday cakes and cookies can involve not only the shapes and images of the season, but its colors as well. Sugar cookies shaped like Santa, gingerbread men and women with red lips and blue eyes, red velvet cake, yule logs, green tree cakes … the list can be endless and very imaginative.

But can we do this without the use of, say, Yellow No. 5, Red No. 40, Green No. 3 and other artificial colors? Can we opt for natural color that might also add nutritional value to our baking and cooking?

“You can certainly use freeze-dried fruit, beet juice and spices like saffron and turmeric to create color in baking,” says Susan Reid, a chef and baking expert who teaches and develops recipes for King Arthur Flour in Norwich, Vt.

And there is plenty of nutritional value in the foods and spices Reid lists:

●Freeze-dried berries such as strawberries and blueberries contain antioxidant phytochemicals, vitamins and folic acid.
● Beets are full of vitamins and minerals.
● Turmeric— well, the list is long but may include cancer- and heart-disease-prevention properties as well as the treatment of a range of digestive issues and even depression.
● Saffron contains vitamins and other important nutrients, and there are indications that it can help prevent and treat everything from depression to high cholesterol.

So not only do these colorful fruits and spices seem to cover our needs for red, blue, orange and yellow in our holiday favorites, they also seem to help our general health.

But how about the all-important green?

“You’re not going to get a really intense green with natural food color. It will be more muted,” Reid says.

If you can live with a more muted, forestlike green, there are a few ways to go.

For example, says Liz Lipski, director of academic development for nutrition and integrative health at the Maryland University of Integrative Health, you can use spirulina, wheat grass juice or spinach powder to achieve a muted green:

● Spirulina is a blue-green algae full of protein, vitamins and minerals.
● Wheat grass includes amino acids, vitamins and iron.
● Spinach contains calcium, vitamins and folate.

Just be careful not to use too much. “If you use enough to make it bright green, it will affect the flavor,” Lipski says.

Indeed, you could get great yellows with onion — but onion cake doesn’t sound too appealing. Or you could grind down marigolds (which are edible), but that would affect the taste, too.

“It would be pretty hard to disguise the flavor,” Reid says.

In other words, if you want to use natural — and, as it turns out, nutritious — food coloring, you have to change your expectations a bit, say Reid and Lipski. Maybe learn to accept less intense colors and focus instead on flavor and nutrition, Lipski suggests.

“But especially with kids — how do we acclimate them to less color?” Lipski asks. She is the author of “Digestive Health for Children” and a proponent of moving away from the use of artificial food colors that contain petroleum and are often either banned or require warning labels in Europe.

But even if you can persuade the kiddos — and others — to accept forest-green Christmas cookies over their neon counterparts, there is still the challenge of getting the recipes right. You will become part chemist, part baker.

If, for example, you add liquid, you will have to adjust the entire recipe or you might end up with a soupy mess.

Of course, if you want to make it easy on yourself but still would prefer natural over artificial, King Arthur Flour sells natural food coloring by the bottle and the sprinkle; and Whole Foods sells items from Colorgarden.net and Indiatree.com, says Joel Singer, Whole Foods Markets’ Mid-Atlantic associate bakery coordinator.

Singer, who agrees with Lipski and Reid that natural food coloring — even the store-bought variety — tends to be less strong, says “it is best used in an icing application than the cake itself.”

Whole Foods’ own bakeries use colors derived from beets (red), annatto root (orange) and spinach (green), Singer says.

But let’s go back to home-baking with a touch of chemistry in the mix.

For example, Lipski says, if you are making red velvet cake you could swap out the red food coloring for pureed beets.

FoodFacts.com wants to add that there are recipes all over the internet that will help you become that kitchen chemist. And if you’re not keen on chemistry, you can also find more than a few brands of natural food coloring that you can use the same way you would the artificial type. The colors are different and can be affected by the other ingredients in your recipes, but most brands provide guidance on what you can expect.

We’ll gladly trade the brightly colored cookies for softer hues. While we love our colorful holidays, our health will benefit from the trade off!

http://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/wellness/replace-artificial-food-coloring-with-natural-options/2014/11/11/e4bae6ee-6071-11e4-91f7-5d89b5e8c251_story.html

How many blueberries do you think you’ve eaten that haven’t really been blueberries?

bluebberiesTurns out that this is a really good question. And if you’ve never wondered about it, don’t worry, there are people who already have. Many of those little blue specs that decorate a variety of muffins, bagels, cereals and bars aren’t actual blueberries. They can simply be sugar, corn syrup and food coloring rolled into small clumps that kind of resemble berries or in some less offensive cases, they can be sugars, and some different fruit juices that can include blueberry. Either way, images of blueberries shouldn’t be gracing the packaging.

A while back, Natural News did some investigating and found many half-truths (or total lies) in blueberry snacks when they compared pictures of fresh berries from the package to what’s actually inside.

Here are a few disappointing blueberry products to look out for.

Jiffy Blueberry Muffin Mix
No blueberries in the ingredient list.

Quaker Blueberries & Cream Instant Oatmeal
Here we have some blueberry concentrate, listed after the dried figs, corn syrup solids, starch, and sugar. They’re called blueberry pieces.

Kellogg’s Special K Blueberry Bars
These feature “blueberry-flavored fruit pieces.” They’re made of cranberries blueberry juice from concentrate, sunflower oil and grape juice.

Pillsbury Blueberry Biscuits and Muffins
No blueberries at all — just sugar and food coloring.

Kellogg Mini Wheats Blueberry
No blueberries. No blueberry juice. No fruit at all.

Panera Blueberry Bagels
Somehow or another Panera’s blueberry bagels didn’t warrant the use of actual berries, while the blueberry muffins and blueberry scones did. Go figure. The “blueberry-flavored bits” contain sugar, flour, corn syrup and food coloring as well as “infused blueberries.” We can’t tell you what those actually are.

Hungry Jack Blueberry Pancake Mix
This pancake mix boasts “artificial blueberry bits” more commonly known as sugar and food coloring.

Yoplait Light Blueberry Pie Yogurt
Natural and artificial flavors, Red 40 and Blue 1 allow you to think you’re seeing and tasting real blueberries.

Brookside Dark Chocolate Acai & Blueberry
These berry sized treats are a bit better than the other products we’re listing. The centers are created from a variety of fruit concentrates and blueberry IS one of them. The juices appear to be thickened with corn syrup and sugar.

Quaker Wild Blueberry Crisps
Quaker could have really done a better job. No blueberry. No fruit juice. Just natural and artificial flavors.

Some fake blueberry flavoring is obviously better than others. At the end of the day, though, none of these blueberry products are really blueberry products. FoodFacts.com thinks this serves as a great reminder for everyone to read ingredient lists, all the time — no matter what the brand might be or what images appear on the packaging.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/10/29/fake-blueberry-breakfast-foods_n_6016288.html?utm_hp_ref=taste&ir=Taste