Topline Trends Tuesday: Natural food colourings

fresh annato

From moms with rangy kids to health advocates, artificial food colourings used to make packaged foods appealing have been criticized for years. Concerns about the chemicals used in artificial colouring range from aggravating skin rashes like eczema to causing ADHD. Recently, food scientists have made strides with natural colours and now many natural colours are more heat stable and suitable for use in acidic foods. (If you’re super smart and interested in the science behind these advances, you can read about it in Food Navigator).

At the recent Institute of Food Technologies trade show, both natural food colour options and organic versions of traditional natural food colours like annatto (pictured above and used to make Cheddar cheese orange) got a lot of attention as food companies look for ways to create products with “cleaner” ingredient lists.

Watch Food Navigator’s video if you’d like more info.

How do you feel about coloured food? Do you resist adding food colouring to frostings? Do you shun Easter eggs? Or, do you go for it?


12 Responses to Topline Trends Tuesday: Natural food colourings

  1. As you know, I’m not into fake food. I don’t mind a drop or two for special occasions (like decorating sugar cookies at Christmas or dying eggs at Easter), but beyond that, what’s the point of food coloring?

    While I applaud the organic food colours (which I’d use for Christmas baking), why do we need to colour cheddar? Perhaps we need to re-examine our expectations as well as the additives we use.

  2. I’ve always naturally shied away from artificial anything as much as possible. The ADHD diagnosis made me realize that this was instinctive. When possible I prefer to go with natural additives but I’m not extreme about it. A friend of mine uses natural colouring in baking, such as beets for red.

    Charmain: I’m against orange cheddar. I once told a cheese seller this at a trade show and he tried to convince me that orange cheese isn’t bad, and that’s the way it’s always been done. Fact is, if cheese doesn’t NEED to be orange why bother? Milk doesn’t come out of cows orange. It’s the idea that colours are related to flavours, which is dumb. Red=cherry (or strawberry), yellow=banana, orange=orange or cheddar.

  3. Barb says:

    I love to color eggs with kids and appreciate how pretty and creative colored frostings can be. Part of an artist’s palette, really. I have food coloring in the cupboard but rarely use it myself. With findings of negative health results because of it, I question using it at all?

  4. Sharon Haslam says:

    I’m not against orange cheddar–although I prefer the aged or old which is usually white…I think where we see the most “unnatural” colour used is in the junk food industry like red cream soda, blue raspberry drinks, candy, freezies and have you seen the colour of ketchup chips? These of course appeal to a younger generation and it’s up to moms and dads (the shoppers) to buy or not buy, consume or not consume. I buy kids vitamins without additives (including colour) and even dye-free Tylenol and cough medicine. I think that stuff has HEAVY DUTY colour added. Sometimes I like to see the world through rose-coloured glasses and a few pastel coloured Easter eggs or pink frosted cupcakes (where I control the amount of gel colouring) are ok by me too.

  5. The only thing I intentionally use colour for is icings for cupcakes and cookies. What is interesting to me is how many kids I know who don’t want red colouring. They all say it tastes funny and you can actually buy taste-free red gel food colouring. But the kids won’t touch the red either way. Maybe I know too many granola kids?

    Colour is very important to my life as a quilter, but in my food I think there is enough natural beauty out there.

    PS Do they still colour margarine in Ontario so you know for sure it isn’t butter? That always cracked me up.

    • danamccauley says:

      I don’t think the margarine is still coloured that lurid yellow but I don’t use it so I can’t be sure. Anyone else have some margarine that they can look and and report back to us on the colour?

  6. cheryl says:

    I do use food coloring, probably once or twice a year, at home. I avoid it in packaged products, but again I don’t eat that much packaged food so it’s not much of an issue.

    That said, I can’t resist a nice red maraschino cherry.

  7. Diva says:

    I don’t think I’ve ever used food coloring except for frosting cookies and cakes. As mentioned, those are occasional treats, so I really don’t worry about it. I will say this – I’ve never baked a red velvet cake because the idea of dumping a whole bottle of red food coloring into it really freaks me out!

    Which, of course, is not to say that I’ve never had red velvet cake. Though certainly, its not my cake of choice. Something about it squicks me.

    No problem with Easter Eggs either – eh, its once a year!

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