27 June 2012

"Natural Food Dyes" Do we need them at all?

We tend to prefer foods that are labeled "natural coloring" and "natural flavoring", leaning away from products that list artificial colors and flavors in their ingredients.

But the recent Starbucks flap has me wondering if we actually need to wean ourselves and consume slightly more bland and less colorful prepared foods.

In case you missed it: Starbucks customers found out that their strawberry drinks were colored with carmine, a red dye made of crushed parasistic beetles. Around 70,000 beetles are crushed for each pound of carmine, which is widely used in food and cosmetics, including your lipstick.

6,500 customers signed an anti-carmine petition and Starbucks responded.

Now the strawberry drinks are colored with a tomato based product called Tomat-O-Red which can claim antioxidants.

People with deadly nightshade (potato, tomato, eggplant) or tomato-specific allergies will not realize that there is a tomato derivitive in their beverage because it will be listed as "natural coloring".

Have you ever cooked with strawberries? They become sort of grey-red and food producers add the crushed bugs to make the product red again. Did consumers demand these colorings or did producers make it up that we wanted the colors?

It's all icky and makes me want to eat only home made.

Inhabitat's post has more details and you can read it here.


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