Bye Bye, Toxins: Natural Food Coloring in High Demand

Natural food coloring that comes from plants.

We all know artificial colors are gross to the max — there’s no doubt about it. Not only are these bottled hues filled with all sorts of unnatural ingredients, but a 2007 study in the Lancet linked artificial colors with hyperactivity in children. While these findings are preliminary, they are still cause for concern–the EU has banned certain artificial colors because of their link to these children’s health issues. Now, some companies are using all the color-power of fruits and vegetables to make brightly hued food colors–without the chemicals.

The drive behind these natural food coloring companies comes from big companies (think Kraft, Nestlé, and General Mills) ditching artificial flavors and colors, and synthetic colors. But if it’s being done know, why weren’t these companies using plants already, instead of the toxic chemical colors and flavors? The simple answer — because it’s expensive.

NPR reports that making colors via plants is much more expensive than making colors in a lab. Carol Culhane, the president of International Food Focus Limited, explains that that’s because plants aren’t as predictable as lab-made products. No surprise there — we all know Mother Nature can be difficult. “In a factory, companies can make as much of a synthetic color as needed at any given time the exact same way, and keep the price consistent. But pigments in real vegetables can vary from field to field, region to region and year to year,” NPR reports.

The following are just a few of the companies working toward making plant-based food dyes.

colorMarker, an Anaheim, Calif. company, uses all sorts of fruits and vegetables to make natural colors. The company sources its “grapes and beets from the U.S., red cabbage from China, purple carrots from Eastern Europe, turmeric from India and more. The custom natural color blends can be found in kid cereals, ice cream, candy and stuffed pasta.”

Kalsec has actually been making natural colors for more than 50 years. The company’s strength? Extracting color from carrots… To make the carrot-color pop, the company uses its patented Durabrite technology.

San Joaquin Valley Concentrates is known for its ability to make natural shades of red, pink, and purple. NPR reports that the colors come in crystal and liquid forms.

Do you make your own colors at home? What do you use and what do you use the colors in?

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Image of natural food coloring options from Shutterstock