Tell Me Where that Color Came From!

If you don’t know the story of how Fooducate got started, it all began with a glow-in-the-dark yogurt. The ultra-bright ingredient that turned listless strawberry puree into an explosion of pink, was an artificial dye – Red #40. Implicated in neurological maladies, this petroleum based coloring should not be in food or beverages we buy for our family.

However, artificial colorings have found their way into many processed products – cereal, cookies, drinks, ice cream, yogurt, cheese, and salad dressings, to name a few. The only way to know if that cereal bar you are reaching for is artificially colored, is to attentively read the ingredient list and seek phrases such as Red #40, FD&C number 5, or Lake Blue 1. Not trivial.

This is why earlier this month, the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) petitioned the FDA to require artificial coloring disclosure on the front of package, next to the product name:

Tropicana Twister Cherry Berry Blast has no cherry juice. Nor does it have any berry juice. Despite the pictures of cherries and berries on the label, this drink gets much of its dark red color from the controversial dye, Red 40. The Center for Science in the Public Interest says that’s deceptive. [CSPI is] urging the Food and Drug Administration to require food companies to disclose on the front of food labels whether a product is artificially colored. read more…

Here for example is the ingredient list for the Tropicana CHERRY BLAST product:

Filtered Water, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Apple and Grape Juice Concentrates, Citric Acid, Natural and Artificial Flavors, Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C), and Red 40

The artificial coloring appears at the end. It would be much easier for a consumer to learn that the wonderfully strong color in the bottle comes from red #40, and not from the so called cherries. Did you see any cherries in the ingredient list?

(By the way, this drink is liquid sugar. A serving has 6.5 tsp of sugar in it! and for those of you who drink the entire bottle – which is what most people do – you’ll be ingesting a whopping 15.5 tsp of sugar!)

What to do at the supermarket:

Even if the FDA will heed CSPI’s request, good chances are that the food industry will threaten with a lawsuit or lobby sufficiently to get this suggestion off the table.

Therefore your best bet is to read the ingredient list and look for the artificial dye towards the end (only a tiny amount is required).

You can also use the free Fooducate mobile app – it always warns when a product has artificial colors.

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  • Mike Lieberman

    It amazes me how people would look at something like that and take the amount of sugar into higher consideration than the ingredients.

  • Amber @ Au Coeur

    It’s funny (or sad, maybe), but I often feel like I am the only parent in my circle concerned about this.  Like I’m crazy for telling my mom we don’t want our daughter eating Jell-o, for quickly trying to sneak the ice pop out of the birthday treat bag and into the trash, or for taking my two year old to the cookie decorating party, letting her eat the plain ones there and “forgetting” to bring the decorated ones home.  Can someone please tell me I’m not the only one to buy organic candy canes?

  • Betsy Keller PR

    and what about pillsbury’s ironic marketing campaign providing proceeds to the Komen foundation for cancer research from red# 40 cinnamon buns?  check out the fairfield green food guide “why are the buns pink?”

  • Austin Danger Wiegand

    These companies should have to depict on the label what’s actually in the drink: corn, or what it tastes like: artificially produced flavor.
    “New! Corn sweetened chemical beverage that tastes reminiscent of berries!” With pictures of corn and flasks of chemical flavoring.

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  • Campbell Barnum

    Let’s keep in mind there are two categories of color additives in U.S. food law. (1) Color Additives Exempt from Certification (“exempt”) and (2) ColorAdditives Subject to Certification (“certified”). The latter are referenced in the Fooducate blog above. The FDA identifies exempt color additives [such as annatto extract, [beta]-Carotene, turmeric, elderberry juice (fruit juice), purple sweet potato juice (vegetable juice), and caramel] which do not require batch certification. In contrast, the certified color additives like FD&C Red # 40, FD&C Yellow # 5, FD&C Blue # 1 are man-made (from petroleum sources) These require certification by the manufacturer and FDA to assure the safety, quality, consistency and strength of each batch. Certified color additives are commonly known in the industry as ‘synthetic’ or ’artificial’.@foodcolour

    • Fooducate

      Thanks for that info!