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Showing their True Colors

Sarah Pardes

We’re constantly told to choose foods in all colors of the rainbow. But when those deep hues and shades come from food coloring, additives, and preservatives, are they safe to eat? The risks — and other issues — surrounding food coloring.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Imagine you’re making delicious apple muffins or a savory zucchini kugel. Would you dump drops of red food coloring into the batter or mix in some green food coloring with your eggs? Just the thought repels many of us. But those colors may already be in your food. Not sure just how prevalent these additives are in our food supply? Try this challenge: Plan a meal without any trace of artificial food coloring. What’s the problem? you’re probably thinking. I’ll just eliminate sweets, snacks, flavored yogurts, and sweetened drinks from the menu. They’re unhealthy anyway. Pure, natural, nutritious foods should be free of any artificial coloring. Now take a quick glance at the labels and ingredients lists of many healthy foods in your kitchen and you’ll quickly realize how far this is from the truth. Even foods without bright colors — say whole wheat pizza crust, for example — often still contain coloring agents. Synthetic food coloring is an integral part of the modern food industry. Our pantries and refrigerators are packed with products containing incomprehensibly named ingredients and oddly numbered additives: cereals, pasta, jelly, breadcrumbs, cold cuts, flavored yogurts, crackers, and, of course, snacks and candy contain sizable amounts of food coloring. Because so many of these brightly colored snack foods are marketed to kids, children are the ones most likely to take in large amounts of these food colorings. What effects could coloring agents have on our children?

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