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Colouring The World Natural

Updated on February 13, 2013

Time was when human beings blended in with the beautiful balance of nature and ate all things natural. Today, synthetic colours happen to be the order of the day in most countries and it looks like it’s going to be a long haul before things get corrected. Europe seems to be leading the way by replacing synthetic colours with natural ones or at least putting it on the labels so people know. It’s happening in a few countries outside Europe as well. For the rest of us however, synthetic colours rule when it comes to foods.

In the US, the FDA does not see the need to make companies change because they feel there is no proof positive. The research they quote is based on rats where synthetic colours were injected into them and caused problems – the food they ate with synthetic colours did not seem to affect them too much. Without the FDA laying down the law, it is highly unlikely that the companies themselves will even consider looking at natural colours. This is unlike the trend in Europe where the initiative is taken by industry to switch to natural. One of the leading European natural colours manufacturer is Danish dairy ingredients giant, Chr. Hansen. With the study in Southampton having clearly linked synthetic colours with ADHD or hyperactivity in children, it’s time to press the panic buttons.

The sad part is, the same company will sell food products with safe, natural colours in Europe and with synthetic colours in the rest of the world where there is no legislature regarding the use of colours in foods. It’s a vicious circle – with the companies not wanting to take the lead and waiting for the food regulating authorities to tell them to do so and the food regulating authorities saying there is no hard and fast evidence that synthetic colours are to blame for many ills. Add to that the fact that natural colours never used to be as stable as the synthetic ones and you see how there is really no incentive for companies to change unless pushed to do so. However, natural colours today are getting more stable thanks to new technology so that is going to be one excuse less when it comes to having to switch.

So if the companies don’t do it, the onus is really on the consumer to try and push for legislation so foods are coloured with only natural colours. The trouble is, very often you just don’t know. Just labelling is not enough to warn consumers. You could buy a scoop of ice-cream and not know whether or not it contains synthetic colours.

If one were to look beyond food, synthetic colours are also used in cosmetics. Here again, you could have them enter the body through the skin. In India, the harvest festival of colours called Holi which is celebrated in the North has had so many instances of temporary blindness and skin allergies caused by the colours that were being used. Today, thanks to a concerted campaign by activists, a lot of it has been replaced with natural and safe colours.

Our body revels in all things natural and with increasing impunity, we continue to feed it with toxins and then wonder why we get ill. Yes, there is an awareness that is spreading to go back to nature and the natural way of things – but is it happening fast enough is the question!


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    • Shalini Kagal profile image
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      Shalini Kagal 8 years ago from India

      I agree earnesthub - 'lynch 'em' would be even better. I was only trying to say that in the absence of any regulation, Eorope's self regulation comes as a breath of fresh air. Ideally, there should be stringent regulation - thanks for stopping by!

    • earnestshub profile image

      earnestshub 8 years ago from Melbourne Australia

      Self regulation should be enough but isn't. If companies reason that it is ok to hurt our kids for profit, public humiliation on the nation's press should do it. I say jail em!

    • Shalini Kagal profile image
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      Shalini Kagal 8 years ago from India

      I guess money is always the bottom line Amanda! I tend to be a bit particular in India because the use of synthetic colours is rampant, possibly worse than the US and the Eastern countries. I think Europe is streets ahead in this particular area - simply because it is self-regulatory. Thanks as always, for reading!

    • Amanda Severn profile image

      Amanda Severn 8 years ago from UK

      Hi Shalini,

      Gosh, how naive am I? I always assumed that because we've all been running around in the UK and Europe checking food labels and fretting about ADHD, that the rest of the world would be doing the same! There is a huge tendency, world-wide, to put our trust in manufacturers. Surely, we tell ourselves, these companies wouldn't put the health of the consumer at risk! How wrong can we be. Profits clearly come before people time and again.

    • Shalini Kagal profile image
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      Shalini Kagal 8 years ago from India

      Wish we could - the Riviera would be nice!!! :D

    • Benjimester profile image

      Benji Mester 8 years ago from San Diego, California

      Yeah, they've been saying for awhile that all those artificial colors were eventually going to give us all cancer. It's scary to think what all's in our food. I guess we all need to pack our bags and head to Europe :)

    • Shalini Kagal profile image
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      Shalini Kagal 8 years ago from India

      Yes Laila - all those additives, preservatives.....scary!! Thanks for reading :)

    • Laila Rajaratnam profile image

      Laila Rajaratnam 8 years ago from India

      Informative hub Shalini..yes,its so very scary when we read realistic articles like these and also articles about using pesticides on vegetables!

    • Shalini Kagal profile image
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      Shalini Kagal 8 years ago from India

      You got a point there CWB!!

    • profile image

      ColdWarBaby 8 years ago

      Hadn't thought of that. Seems like they'd want to keep the ones who can buy alive at least until they run out of money.

    • Shalini Kagal profile image
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      Shalini Kagal 8 years ago from India

      Or maybe buy and die? Thanks for stopping by and reading CWB :)

    • profile image

      ColdWarBaby 8 years ago

      Great hub Shalini.

      It's another capitalist mandate: Profit before people.

      Goes right along with: Buy or Die.

    • Shalini Kagal profile image
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      Shalini Kagal 8 years ago from India

      Aya - thanks for coming by! Yes, self regulation at an industrial or even a community or personal level is really the best. A silent revolution gets things corrected like nothing else can!

      foxility - yes, business is all about the bottom line - maybe it shouldn't be, but it is :(

    • foxility profile image

      foxility 8 years ago

      Well, thanks for bringin out the ugliness of business... cause that's really what it comes down to. The truth is disguisting but at-least we are better informed now.

    • Aya Katz profile image

      Aya Katz 8 years ago from The Ozarks

      Shalini Kagal, as usual a well written, informative hub. I think it is better when consumers and manufacturers decide by themselves what they will or will not buy or sell, rather than having the government do it. All regulations have loopholes. The remedy is sometimes worse than what it was intended to cure.

      If you cook and bake your own food, then you choose what color it is.

      As far as make up goes, I don't use any. There is a multitude of problems that one can avoid by living simply.

    • Shalini Kagal profile image
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      Shalini Kagal 8 years ago from India

      BrianS - thanks for stopping by! Yes, it is amazing - and when it's a child, sad as well! I guess money usually wins - unless we stand up en masse!

      quicksand - you are soooo funny! Here's to your Rainbow Rats Brigade LOL!

    • quicksand profile image

      quicksand 8 years ago

      We have a tough task ahead of us.

      But, colored rats would be pleasing to the eye of course! It would take away the "ugh" effect.

      :)

    • BrianS profile image

      Brian Stephens 8 years ago from Castelnaudary, France

      Amazing to watch a small child who has just eaten some highly colored sweets go into hyperdrive and usually accompanied with bad behaviour. Something we learned a while ago but like you said without legislation the manufacturers will keep churning out the same products. Seems like profit margins win over integrity much more often than they should.

    • Shalini Kagal profile image
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      Shalini Kagal 8 years ago from India

      Exactly Research Analyst - we trust so blindly, don't we?

    • Research Analyst profile image

      Research Analyst 8 years ago

      Its amazing how little we know about the food we eat, its such a trust issue, society just eats it but not really knowing how it is affecting the body.

    • Shalini Kagal profile image
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      Shalini Kagal 8 years ago from India

      Thank you all for reading and commenting :)

      cgull - yes, it's amazing how we just shut our eyes to all those side effects!

      Embracing The Truth - we can if we try - the problem I guess is that we are all so immersed in our own little worlds, we don't even want to see the big picture.

      Netters - yes, most don't simply because we expect large companies to be more responsible - and they aren't!

      Cris - presentation plays such a huge part of marketing, doesn't it? You said it - eye candy!

      GT - that's the sad part - that our children suffer - and that is criminal!

      G-Ma - that must have been so scary! Yes, natural is pretty- we just need to alter our mind sets to what they were a couple of generations ago - sounds so much fun - staining those scarves! Hugs :)

    • G-Ma Johnson profile image

      Merle Ann Johnson 8 years ago from NW in the land of the Free

      you are so right on my dear..I was so shocked when I was doing child care and went to change a diaper of as child that was given those colored bear crackers??? I am not sure they even still make them but his Poopie was several colors and when I asked about it we figured it was from the crackers. shame shame shame and the colors form natural things are so pretty...

      My daughter and I stained pure silk scarfs with berry juices and tea and dandilion blossoms picked from the yard, even used some sort of Mexican beetle bug juice...yikess...parsley and lavendar plants...it was work but was so worth it...

      Great hub and nice to know someone actually is doing it el'natural...G-Ma :O) Hugs & Peace

    • goldentoad profile image

      goldentoad 8 years ago from Free and running....

      I am scared, really, I think its messing with the genetic structure of the mind and being passed to the next generations, with all the autism and adhd cases coming on, in the newer generations and no one knows why, I think it has to do with the food. very informative hub Shalini.

    • Cris A profile image

      Cris A 8 years ago from Manila, Philippines

      I myself have never bothered to question the amazing colors that sometimes food products come in. They all add up to that eye candy appeal. Though I might check the fat contents and all the usual suspects, but the color?! Thanks for this informative hub, Shalini! I've learned a new thing today! :D

    • Netters profile image

      Netters 8 years ago from Land of Enchantment - NM

      Wow, I never knew that. Thank you.

    • profile image

      Helena 8 years ago

      I wonder what would happen if we just all stopped eating processed food? They would be forced to change the way they fo things!

    • cgull8m profile image

      cgull8m 8 years ago from North Carolina

      I agree we moved away from nature. Even the pills they give has too many side effects. I see ads about medicines, half the ad talks about the good of the medicine, the other half talks about all the side effects and they are scary but they are proud to annouce it.

    • Shalini Kagal profile image
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      Shalini Kagal 8 years ago from India

      Thanks for reading Teresa! The great thing about the European countries is that it's self regulation by the companies - do hope the rest of the world follows suit!

    • Teresa McGurk profile image

      Sheila 8 years ago from The Other Bangor

      What an interesting and informative hub. I'm now going to read all the labels on the food in my cupboard! Of course, trust the States to be lax when it comes to FDA testing and approval; it's good to know that at least Europe is being more responsible in food production. Thanks for this excellent hub.