Saturday, August 16, 2008

Legislating Color

After studies emerged linking synthetics in our food to hyperactive behavior in children, everyone said "Huh. I guess that figures."

Now, Europe taking a second look at chemical dyes, and pending legislation would have products with any of six artificial colors come with a health warning.

That said, "it's not over 'til the fat lobbiest sings", and the European Food Safety Authority opined that there is no evidence to change acceptable daily intakes (ADIs). Fortunately, the EFSA is the commission’s independent risk assessor, but the legislative body is under no obligation to follow its opinions.

Meanwhile the US-based Center for Science in the Public Interest has petitioned the FDA to ban artificial colorings linked to hyperactivity and behavior problems in children. While they also want warning labels on foods with artificial dyes, they would settled for an out and out ban.

They have a point, actually. The CSPI cites FDA statistics that the amount of food dye certified for use was 12 milligrams per capita per day in 1955. But as of 2007, 59 mg per capita per day, or nearly five times as much, was certified for use.

And where do you get these dyes? Predominantly from sugary cereals, candies, sodas, and snack foods pitched to children. Hence they want the artificial dyes to be removed from the food formula.

But again, exactly what is meant by the term “artificial color” depends on which side of the Atlantic you are standing.

Read the entire article here.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Natural? Define "Natural".

Everything is so confusing. What does “natural” or “artificial” mean?

For example, elderberry ice cream has added color from anthocyanins that were isolated from elderberries. THAT makes sense. The added color is considered natural since the elderberry color would be expected in an elderberry ice cream.

Now it gets weird. If the ice cream were colored with anthocyanins isolated from purple sweet potato, the added color would be considered artificial, as the consumer would not expect color from purple sweet potato in a product called elderberry ice cream.

As if playing confusion pile-on, the EU and US define terms differently. In the EU artificial color is an acceptable reference to what is recognized in the US as "color additives subject to certification," "certified colors", "Food, Drugs & Cosmetics (FD&C) colors", or "synthetic colors".


Another example is sodium copper chlorophyllin, which is only approved in the USA for use in citrus-based dry beverage mixes, while in the EU it is allowed to color many more food and beverage applications. And lutein is allowed for use as a food and beverage color additive in the EU but not in the USA.

Finally, if you isolate naturally derived colors from different sources the approvals change, depending on whether you are a US or EU company.

According to a colorant industry spokesperson, “This potential for confusion and misinterpretation of a label by a consumer is limiting to the food manufacturer that uses naturally derived color additives and does not want to disclose the source of coloring.”

She said: “It is essential that we learn to appreciate the language of color additives and how this language can change depending on the region in which you are working.”

Alternatively, hey, I have an idea. Just eat normal food. Steer clear of eating something that requires legalese or is a blatant oxymoron (natural synthetic!).

Read the entire article here.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Dye Supply Gone Dry?

In 2007, a late frost decimated European elderberry crops. Although this crop, and so the natural coloring it produced, were grown in other areas of the world, it drove the cost up significantly. This kind of cost craziness that can vary from year to year, makes the industry and their investors, well, crazy.

“Natural colours could be more vulnerable to supply issues than synthetic colours. Since natural colours are derived from natural products (fruit, vegetables and other sources), their supply is more susceptible to weather related and shelf life issues than synthetic colours,” Jody Renner-Nantz, Food Science Chemist at DD Williamson Support Center in the US told

Because of this little nettle, food chemists are now trying to synthesize the chemicals naturally derived in everything from beets to bugs, to be able to return to large scale, industrial batch processing.

The synthesized anthocyanins, for example, can be manipulated chemically to turn shade you want. "You name it - from white to deep purple, and everything in between," said the CEO of the company that wants to market the colors.

But here, they want to have it both ways. They want to synthesize a product and call it natural. "The definition of natural can be tough. The compounds we will manufacture are the same compounds in the natural sources. There is no difference between these compounds structurally."

The final decision will be made by the FDA. In other words, companies producing “synthetic natural flavors” should begin now investing in lobbyists.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Dyes Are Going Native

Here is an indication of the change we are in the middle of.

Back in 2005, Nestle promised to remove all artificial coloring from its products. They vowed to switch to only natural alternatives, but had a real issue finding a replacement for their Brilliant Blue (used in Smarties).

To deal with this situation, it actually canned the blue ones altogether and just sold white Smarties instead!! Weird. Who would have guessed? Later, in February of this year, they discovered a blue-green lake algae that t’would serve.

The issue for the food manufacturers is not that the natural sources for color is not out there – there are sources available. The problem is that natural colors, as you might imagine, contain other elements that might confuse the chemistry of the overall product.

Natural colorings commonly contain wonderful vitamins, minerals, co-factors, caffeine, etc. Each of these could cross react with the other emulsifiers, stabilizers, and chemical additives of the product. This just means that the introduction of new colors can bring substantial development work when the texture, flavor, or, yes, color goes south.

According to one representative of the natural coloring industry, “Especially when talking beverages, the chemical reactivity or the lipophilic nature of natural pigments needs some specific formulation based on emulsion, encapsulation, resistance to oxydation, fading and browning.”

Blah blah blah. The bottom line is that they are willing to ditch their old formulation, which is cheaper and easier, in order to meet consumer demand. Don’t shed a tear, though. They’ll figure themselves out, and we’ll be the healthier for it.

Read the entire article here:

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Dyes In Your Food

Food companies LOVE artificial colors. They are consistent, you can make them in industrial sized tanker truck loads, and because it has nothing to do with living things, it is not subject to changes in the environment or any messy crop fluctuations.

Made to eat, but unrelated to food.

The problem is that they can lead to health problems. In the Southampton Study, for example, researchers discovered that when children eat artificial dyes, they can become hyperactive.

Apparently, we needed a study to confirm common sense.

Nevertheless, the upshot is that food companies are responding to consumer concerns that eating synthetic ingredients cannot possibly be good for you, and are now turning to natural sources to color their products.

Natural colours now make up 31 per cent of the colourings market, compared with 40 per cent for synthetics. According to food industry watchers, “Natural colours are steadily increasing their market share, driven by the consumer trend towards all things natural and away from artificial additives.”

Furthermore, “natural colours will push synthetics into second position in sectoral terms in the medium-term”.

For you and I, this is great news, and should lead us to continue demanding more whole foods, local when possible, and as free as possible of processing. The more we ask for this, the more we will receive.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Where's the Beef? Recalled.

Think back. Did you purchase ground beef at Whole Foods, between June 2 and August 6? If so, Whole Foods will not have had a chance to recall that burger in time, you should toss it out, and ask for a refund.

Just last month, this company, Nebraska Beef recalled over 5 million pounds of beef that the company released between May 16 and June 26. Why? A federal investigation determined that their processing practices led to an E. coli outbreak in several states. To make matters worse, on Friday the company decided to recall an additional 1.2 million pounds of beef that they produced on June 17, June 14 and July 8.

Already, their meat has been linked to illnesses in California, Colorado, Connecticut, Idaho, Illlinois, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia (as reported by the Associated Press).

E. coli O157:H7 is a potentially deadly bacterium that can cause bloody diarrhea, dehydration, and in the most severe cases, kidney failure. The very young, seniors and persons with weak immune systems are the most susceptible to foodborne illness.

The CDC estimates that the E. bacterium sickens more than 70,000 people and kills more than 60 every year in the United States.

Stevia Science

Get ready for controversy. The FDA has blocked Stevia. Advocates cry foul, saying they are held to an unrealistic standard, given that this plant has been used indiginously for centuries.

It's a plant.

But the FDA cites 1968 research conducted by Joseph Kuc, that showed a contraceptive effect on female rats. These animals were given very highly-concentrated doses of stevia. The consequence included lower fertility rates of up to 79 percent.

It's not clear how this will translate into humans, especially since the consumption of stevia in Japan, for example, has not been shown to adversely affect birth rates among their populations.

More contraception

Another study cited by the FDA was conducted in 1988 in Brazil. Again, female rats showed a reduced fertility rate when they consumed stevia during the mating season. And, more recently, a 2006 study showed that stevia can have a harmful effect on male reproductive organs. With male rats this time, a high concentration of stevioside (a stevia extract) "hindered" sperm production, whatever that means.

So, the bottom line is that, over the long-term, reproduction-related problems can arise if this is used in high concentrations over a long period of time.

If you are a rat, and you are reading this, you are a genetic mutant. Nonetheless, rat, you should switch to normal sugar, because your chances of raising a progeny of little rattlets will be "hindered", and we wouldn't want that.

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