Week 2 Challenge - Eliminate Artificial Food Coloring
This is a particularly difficult challenge given that it's Valentine's week and we are inundated with candy, cookies, and treats with various bright colors. It's okay if you want to start it after the holiday, the point is to take little steps without making life too difficult. By next year at this time, your family will hopefully be artificial food dye free!
|Image used with permission from P!xa!o|
Here's a little marketing tidbit for you: people eat more of food that is brightly colored. That's one of the reasons food companies don't want to take it out. When they do marketing studies, they discover that we are conditioned to eat more of brightly colored foods (probably because we are supposed to be eating brightly colored fruits and vegetables), so when they take the blue out of the yogurt, we eat less and report that it's not as tasty as with it. Guess who that's good for? Your waistline. Bad for? The company's bottom line. The more we eat, the more they sell, so they won't be getting rid of artificial food coloring unless the FDA demands it (which is unlikely).
On a more basic level, for those of us with kids, there is constant conditioning going on. If we feed them blue yogurt, skittles, and Kool-Aid as children, they will grow up to expect those brightly colored foods. A bright red apple wouldn't appear as tasty as an artificially colored popsicle, even though in my book, a good fresh apple DOES taste better than a popsicle. Essentially, we are unintentionally conditioning them to crave more processed and artificial foods.
Still not convinced? Lisa at 100 Days of Real Food has a great list of reasons not to eat artificial food dyes.
Since we are already reading labels after last week's challenge, we are heading in the right direction. Now we just need to look out for anything named color # on the ingredient labels. Here's a list from Wikipedia of the currently legal artificial food dyes in the US:
In the US, the following seven artificial colorings are permitted in food (the most common in bold) as of 2007:
- FD&C Green No. 3 – Fast Green FCF, E143 (turquoise shade)
- FD&C Red No. 40 – Allura Red AC, E129 (red shade)
- FD&C Yellow No. 5 – Tartrazine, E102 (yellow shade)
Limited useThe following dyes are only allowed by the FDA for specific limited applications:
- FD&C Yellow No. 6 – Sunset Yellow FCF, E110 (orange shade)
- Citrus Red 2 (orange shade) - allowed only for use to color orange peels.
Our goal for this week is not to buy anything with these ingredients listed on the label. I was surprised when I realized most pickles contain artificial food coloring. I did find that Claussen refrigerated pickles do not. In some cases you'll need to avoid a food altogether, and other times you'll find that a different brand offers a natural or dye free alternative.
Part of this week's challenge is to begin phasing out food coloring in our home baking as well. I found a wonderful reference on making homemade organic food coloring and I plan to buy frozen organic raspberries for our pink Valentine's Day cookies. I'll post pics when I do. I love raspberry flavor, so if the color comes with a little flavor, all the better.
Estimated Cost of Change
This is sort of a wash. There will be products where you may have to buy a more expensive or organic brand in order to get it without artificial food coloring. There will be other products that you simply won't buy anymore (popsicles and Jello for instance), so you'll save money by keeping that food out of your house. (If you do need a popsicle fix, check 100 days of real food's post about homemade alternatives).
Additional Time Commitment
Since you are already reading the labels, the only additional time commitment is the time it takes to find an artificial dye free alternative. The time is really going to depend on how many foods you are currently buying that have food dyes in them. I'd say an extra 15 minutes the first time you are watching for this at the store, after that you'll have a better idea of what you can and cannot purchase, so you won't have to spend as much time on it.
If you are joining in the challenge, I'd love to hear how it's going for your family. What are your biggest hurdles to overcome with this week's challenge?