Though colorful food items are highly appealing, there are some dangers associated with artificial coloring. Go through this article to know more about the same.
Colors are undoubtedly among those factors that make the food more appealing. Nowadays, you may find a wide range of food items with artificial colors. Whether it be cakes or cookies, jams or jelly, Popsicles or candies, colors are almost unavoidable. Even ice creams, milk shakes and soft drinks are found to have loads of artificial food colorings. While kids are more attracted towards colored foods, even adults are not found to be aware of the possible harmful effects of such artificial food colors. You might have heard about the past incidences about food color poisoning that led to the ban of certain artificial food dyes.
Food Color History
Coloring food is not a practice that is recent in origin and the history of food dye use has been traced back to ancient Romans. It is believed that ancient people used saffron and other plant sources for coloring food. During the nineteenth century, the use of food dyes too changed from natural products, like beets, mulberries, turmeric, paprika and pomegranates to minerals and ores.
The use of minerals and ores was not completely safe and some of such dyes were harmful too. Some of the natural food colors like vermilion, blue vitriol, red lead and white lead, were also dangerous. During the initial years of the twentieth century, a new set of food dyes were evolved. These food colors were produced from coal tar. They were a huge hit and were produced in a wide range of colors, some of which are still being used.
From 1938, the task of regulation of artificial food colors was taken over by the FDA. During that time, around fifteen artificial food colors were in use. Among them six artificial food colors are used even today. Many of these fifteen colors, like red 32, orange 2, red 2, etc., were banned due to safety reasons. As of now, there are nine certified (approved by the FDA) food colors. They include FD&C blue 1, FD&C blue 2, FD&C green 3, orange B (3), citrus red 2, FD&C red 3, FD&C red 40 (3), FD&C yellow 5 and FD&C yellow 6. Among them, orange B and citrus red 2 are for limited use.
There are some food colors that are exempt from certification and this include those made from natural sources like plant and animal matter and minerals. Though, the FDA has certified nine colors as safe, there are still speculations about the possible artificial food coloring dangers.
Side Effects of Food Coloring
Most of the certified food colors are used widely and is not said to pose any health risks. However, some of the recent studies point towards the possible negative effects of food coloring. As per these studies, use of artificial coloring may lead to health problems like cancer allergies, asthma and lower IQ. Even behavioral problems, hyperactivity and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in kids, are being speculated.
While red 40, yellow 5, yellow 6, blue 1 and green 3 are found to cause hyperactivity, red 3 is being linked to tumor growth, behavioral problems and certain neurological conditions. Yellow 5 is also said to cause allergies, asthma, behavioral problems (mainly aggressiveness), sleep disturbances and eczema. It is also said to make the user prone to infections. Use of artificial colors, like, blue 1 and green 3 are said to cause cancer, whereas red 40 is linked to tumor. Citrus red 2 is also associated with cancer.
Though the debate about the safety of certified artificial colors are still going on, you may find them being widely used in various food products. Apart from commercial use, food colors are also used in households. They use various artificial colors and their mixtures (mixed as per food coloring chart), for coloring food. So, awareness about the adverse effects of artificial food coloring is very much essential.
While, this is the scenario in the U.S, there are various other countries that still use some of the harmful artificial food colorings like red 2 (amaranth), red 3 (erythrocine), red 4 (ponceau), carmoisine, neutral red, tartrazine, sunset yellow, quinoline yellow, yellow 2G, gentian violet, evans blue, brilliant blue, black PN, brown HT and brown FK.
So it will be better to avoid or minimize the use of food items with certified colors. Opt for natural and fresh foods rather than the colored ones. Make your kids understand the possible negative effects of artificial food colors. You may also use natural colors for making some of their favorite food items at home.