We eat with our mouths, of course, but also with our eyes: to tempt us, many processed foods contain food coloring. What are they made of, and are they harmful to our children?
Who says "food coloring", says "food additive": it is indeed something that is added to a food, such as preservatives. However, unlike these, food colorings are not essential, since they do not allow food to be better preserved, or do not change its taste: their use is purely aesthetic. Consequently, they are used to make food more attractive and, ultimately, to sell it better.
Natural or artificial?
There are two main categories of food coloring. On the one hand, so-called “natural” dyes. Often, they are made up of food pigments (beets, paprika) or insects (carmine red from cochineal). There are also artificial or synthetic food colorings. They are, for their part, from the food industry: they are the ones that worry consumers and scientists. At thisCurrently, 6 such dyes are permitted in Canada, such as Allura Red, Brilliant Blue, Tartrazine and Sunshine Yellow. Of course, these very bright colors are often found in foods intended for children, such as cereals, candies and certain sugary drinks.
How to spot them?
The more a food is processed, the more likely it is to contain dyes and by reading the ingredient list you can tell if this is really the case. The only problem is that we do not usually name the type of dye used, since Canadian law, unlike that of other countries, does not require it. Only the mention “colorant” thus appears in the list of ingredients, without further clarification. In 2010, He alth Canada proposed to improve the identification of food colors on food labels, but nothing has since been implemented.
In our southern neighbours, for example, the type of dye (allura red, brilliant blue, etc.) is named on the packaging. In Europe, a warning is written on the food, which allows consumers to identify these processed products at a glance. However, it is England, which has outright banned artificial dyes, which has the strictest regulations. For example, the Kraft Diner that English children eat owes its color to paprika and beta-carotene – and the company has recently made these changes here too.
And he alth?
Somestudies, including a 2007 British study published in the scientific journal The Lancet, link the consumption of food colorings to the worsening of symptoms in children with ADHD. In addition, it would seem that children subjected to a diet without food colorings would be calmer, more attentive. But these allegations are not concretely proven.
In addition, certain food colorings are strongly suspected of causing hypersensitivity reactions in some people, a reaction that is similar to a food allergy. Thus, we point the finger at sunny yellow and tartrazine (which, not so long ago, gave the color of Kraft Diner), as well as achiote, a natural coloring found in certain cheeses.
Replace food coloring
If the evidence is not concrete, it still raises questions: is it necessary to add food coloring to so many foods, especially those intended directly for children? In North America, the beautiful bright colors of our food are most often due to artificial dyes, while in Europe and England, as we have seen with the example of Kraft Dinner, the food industry now offers the same foods, but naturally colored. This proves beyond any doubt that it is possible to find alternatives to these artificial colors.
You too can replace food coloring in yourpastries, using raspberry, blueberry, or beetroot juice, for example.
Avoid food coloring
In short, grocery store shelves are overflowing with foods containing additives, such as artificial colors. On the one hand, get into the habit of reading the list of ingredients that are found in those you choose. The color is not always a good clue: you can indeed get a blue color naturally, with seaweed, while vanilla pudding, although white, often contains artificial colors. On the other hand, products marked with the “organic” bucket, or identified as being “without artificial coloring”, do not contain any.
Furthermore, it is best to focus on staple foods and natural products, such as fruits, vegetables and fresh produce. Remember that artificial colors are most often found in processed foods, which also contain fat and sugar and therefore have very little nutritional value. This means that limiting its consumption can only be beneficial!