Monday, December 19, 2011

History Paints an Ugly Food Color Portrait

Citrus Red 2, Red 3, Red 40, Yellow 5, Yellow 6, Blue 1, Blue 2 and Green 3, --which include some of the most commonly used artificial food colorings--have all been identified as being, or being contaminated with, potential cancer-causing chemicals, according to the Center for Science in the Public Interest. And Blue 1, Red 40, Yellow 5, and Yellow 6 are known to trigger reactions in those with allergies.

History paints an ugly food color portrait.

Until the twentieth century,food coloring could only be obtained from what people found in nature. Ancient Romans used saffron and other spices to put a rich yellow color into various foods.  Other frequently used natural colors included paprika, turmeric, beet extract, and petals of various flowers.

But many of the other frequently used natural colors were not only unappetizing, but downright dangerous. Bakers added chalk to whiten bread, for example, and sweets manufacturers loaded candy with vermilion (which contains mercury), red lead, white lead, verdigris (which is a copper salt), blue vitriol (which contains copper) and Scheele's green (which contains both copper and arsenic).

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