- Food and Cooking
Colouring The World Natural
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!