Around the turn of the 20th century, scientists began formulating synthetic colors in lieu of natural food dyes that had been used previously. Unfortunately, these synthetic alternatives have proven to have a list of problems.
The safety of products containing artificial colors and flavorings has been a debated topic for years – adversaries claim that they are toxic carcinogens and contributors to ADHD. Seven dyes remain on the FDA’s approved list for use in the United States; the three most popular are Yellow #5, Blue #1, and Red #40, with Red #40 being the most commonly used dye in the U.S., according to Center for Science in the Public Interest.
It is estimated that today 75 percent of the Western diet consists of processed food and that each person consumes an average of 8 to 10 pounds of food additives per year. The artificial colors and flavorings industry is currently a four billion dollar business.
Kool-aid and Jello may be among the most obviously artificially colored products, but they’re far from being the only ones that Americans use on a regular basis. Many popular candies, drinks, popsicles, puddings, yogurts, gums, boxed mac n’ cheese, baking mixes, pickles, meats, fruits, sauces and chips, cereal, baked goods, gelatin powder, drugs and cosmetics contain these ingredients.
The safety measure of testing food for toxicity is relatively new. Many nutritionists recommend that you limit your intake of Red #40 and other food dyes. Choose products that contain paprika, beet juice, carotene, red cabbage and turmeric for coloring instead of synthetic dyes.
The good news is, there has been a shift in the food production company’s commitment to health. More and more companies are taking a different approach to marketing by tapping into buyers’ desire for natural products. The cheese industry is making a shift toward using annatto color (natural derivative from achiote seeds) to replace Yellow #5. Naturally colored and flavored alternatives to gummies, lollipops, cereals, yogurts and gums, and stock the shelves of many American grocery stores. So keep your eyes on the labels and if you’re buying processed food, choose the naturally dyed foods over synthetic additives.