Is artificial food coloring safe
The colour of a food deeply influences the way we perceive its taste to be. We develop an
instant liking for certain foods due to the bright and visually appealing colors they contain.
Food manufacturers have long used this fact to their advantage and have used natural as
well as synthetic colors in food products to make them more attractive and desirable.
Why use artificial coloring in food?
Natural food colors are difficult to extract and are available in limited quantities. This makes them more expensive to use, especially in large scale food manufacturing. Also, synthetic colors can be mixed and matched to increase their vibrancy and make them look more appetizing while there is a limit to the hues that can be achieved with natural food coloring.
Health Implications of using artificial colors
Research conducted as early as the 1970s indicated that using artificial colors can have adverse health implications on people, particularly on children. Subsequent research and tests have added to this concern and this led to a conscious effort on the part of regulatory bodies to ban many artificial colors. Of synthetic colors, only FD&C colors have been approved for use in food products.
Consumption of artificial food coloring is associated with the following health implications.
Carcinogenic metabolism in the intestinal wall and liver – Artificial coloring could cause mutagenic properties in the intestinal wall which could cause serious damage to the wall.
Damage to the Central Nervous System – Compounds in the artificial food coloring could impact the functioning of the nerves in the human body and damage the nerve cells and the working of the central nervous system.
Hyperactivity Disturbances – Even early studies linked artificial food coloring to increased hyperactivity in children predisposed with hyperactivity, ADHD, and other behavioural disorders.
Tumours in the Brain, Kidneys, Bladder, Testes, and the Immune System – Use of artificial food coloring is associated with tumorous growth in different parts of the human body and in the immune system.
Birth Defects – Consumption of food with artificial coloring by pregnant
Negative Affect/ Hindrance of Dopamine Pathways – Blockage of dopamine pathways is known to induce parkinsonism, dystonia, tics, tremor, oculogyric movements, orolingual and other dyskinesias, and akathisia from infancy through the teenage years.
Thyroid Carcinogens – Studies have indicated that consumption of artificial food coloring could also lead to carcinogens in the thyroid gland and affect its functioning.
Endocrine Disruption – Hormonal imbalance and interference with the endocrine system could lead to disruption in the functioning of the liver, kidneys and pancreas.
The first preference when it comes to food colorings should be to natural food coloring derived from fruits or vegetables that are edible. Using glycerine, sugar, water, vegetable juice, and citric acid as a base and with foods like turmeric for yellow and spirulina for green, it is possible to come up with vivid food coloring that is appealing to the human eye. In case it becomes necessary to use synthetic food coloring, ensure that only FD&C coloring is used and in regulated quantities. A quick look at the ingredient list on the food packaging can provide information about what kind of food coloring is present in the products.