Why I’m going to avoid artificial colors from now on. (Update 8/31/17)

 

I have been hearing all sorts of bad things about artificial and synthetic food colors for a long time. I had heard that they were tested on animals at some point, that they’re harmful to our health, that they’re not environmentally friendly, and that they are unnecessary. Yet, I kept seeing products labeled as vegan that had them in them and I assumed I could eat them despite what I believed were rumors. They are in, after all, in some of my favorite mainstream candies that are widely accepted as being accidentally vegan.

Realizing that many people avoid synthetic food colors for the reasons I listed above, I set out to begin to find some alternatives when I cook for other people and for the cookbook I am writing. I was not thinking I would decide to avoid them for the most part until I began to research them more as I was writing this.

However, I discovered some facts that upset me and convinced me otherwise:

Synthetic colors can be present in almost any product in the market, from food and drinks to toothpaste, chewing gum, medications, cosmetics, and even tattoos. They are typically made in a laboratory from petroleum products (Jacobson & Kobylewski, 2010, p. 10) or Coal (FDA, 2007). The petroleum and coal industries are destructive to our environment, and produce products and byproducts that are not exactly considered food!

To identify an artificial food coloring in your foods’ ingredients lists, you must look for the prefixes FD&C, D&C, or Ext. D&C, followed by the name of a color, and a number. Sometimes the artificial color may be listed just as the color and number. These labels mean that these colors have been “certified” by the U.S Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and have been approved by them to be safe for use in food (FDA, 2007). Today, there are nine dyes that are approved to be used in food, and these are (minus the prefixes): Blue 1, Blue 2, Citrus Red 2, Green 3, Orange B, Red 3, Red 40, Yellow 5, and Yellow 6 (Jacobson & Kobylewski, 2010, p. 10).

However, the FDA does not require certain colorants derived from plants, animals, or minerals, though some are still considered artificial colorants and need to be regulated differently (FDA, 2007). This list includes some unappetizing options for colorings such as carmine and cochineal extract (which are produced using beetles and therefore not vegan), canthaxanthin, Sodium copper chlorophyllin, Toasted partially defatted cooked cottonseed flour, ferrous gluconate and ferrous lactate, synthetic iron oxide, mica, etc. The same list includes ingredients we vegans are more familiar with, such as beets, turmeric, vegetable and fruit juices, spirulina, saffron, paprika, carrot oil, and annatto (FDA, 2015). For more information on these lists you can check them out here.

In order to certify a synthetic colorant’s safety, they are tested on animals. The FDA requires that there are tests on at least two different species of rodents (Jacobson & Kobylewski, 2010, p. 11). That alone may be a reason to avoid these dyes. However, if it does not sway you for whatever reason, know that even scientists are critical of the ways in which animal testing is used and applied in research. In order to test the carcinogenicity of these colorful products effectively, scientists believe that more animals needed to be tested, that the tests need to be performed on pregnant animals and their fetuses, and have a longer duration than the two years they are conducted for at present (Potera, 2010). Personally, I would rather avoid or even encourage a ban these questionably safe products than advocate for more extensive animal testing.

Scientists, medical doctors, nutrition experts, and even psychologists, teachers, parents, and other concerned folks also take issue with some of the research findings of some dyes when the FDA has not. For example,  Potera states, “Red 40, Yellow 5, and Yellow 6 contain free benzidene, a human and animal carcinogen permitted in low, presumably safe levels” (2010). However, benzidene has also been found to be bound to the chemical structure of the dyes at a greater level than the free benzidene. The tests the FDA does do not consider or identify bound contaminants, only free ones (Potera, 2010). Yellow 5 (also called tartrazine), can cause allergic reactions that can be severe in some people. Tartrazine is now required to be listed by name on food labels, but that isn’t the only concern with this colorant. In a majority of the test-tube and animal experiments for it, this yellow colored dye was shown to damage DNA, which may indicate that it is a carcinogen. Unfortunately, the studies that showed the data was not considered by the FDA (Jacobson & Kobylewski, 2010, p. 11). Furthermore, it has been suggested by researchers that artificial food colorings can increase hyperactivity in children diagnosed with ADHD, as well as children without the diagnosis (Arnold, Lofthouse, & Hurt, 2012).

Some food dyes used today are even banned for use in cosmetics and topical drugs but not food. Red 3 has been banned from these applications by the FDA. It has been shown in animal testing to cause thyroid cancer. Today, five million pounds of Red 3 are present in the food supply (Jacobson & Kobylewski, 2010, p. 10).

It is, as always, up to you to decide what you will tolerate ethically and put into your body. Personally, now that I know that these products are harmful to my health, animals, and the environment, I am going to try to do away with synthetic food colorings as much as I possibly can. I will use natural colors instead.

References

Arnold, L. E., Lofthouse, N., & Hurt, E. (2012). Artificial food colors and attention deficit/hyperactivity symptoms: Conclusions to dye for. Neurotherapeutics, 9(3), 599-609. https://doi.org/10.1007/s13311-012-0133-x

Jacobson, M. F., & Kobylewski, S. (2010, September). Color Us Worried. Nutrition Action Health Letter, 37(7), 10-11. Retrieved from Nursing & Allied Health Database.

Potera, C. (2010). Diet and nutrition: The artificial food dye blues. Environmental Health Perspectives, 118(10). https://doi.org/10.1289/ehp/118-a428

US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). (2007, December 10). How safe are color additives? Retrieved August 30, 2017, from https://www.fda.gov/ForConsumers/ConsumerUpdates/ucm048951.htm

US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). (2015, May). Summary of color additives for use in the United States in foods, drugs, cosmetics, and medical devices. Retrieved August 31, 2017, from https://www.fda.gov/ForIndustry/ColorAdditives/ColorAdditiveInventories/ucm115641.htm#table1A

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For the purposes of the cookbook I am writing, unfortunately, I had bought a bunch of sprinkles that were labeled vegan that used the artificial colors before I did this research. I feel guilty letting them go to waste and so I plan to use them. However, I feel the need to point out that there are naturally colored vegan sprinkles available. Let’s Do Organic… brand makes a fairly easy to find variety. India Tree makes some too, but not all of them are vegan. You will need to look out for ingredients such as confectioner’s glaze or beeswax (made from insects) before buying. Additionally, there is an Etsy store called Naked Sprinkles that makes a beautiful range of vegan and naturally colored sprinkles that  I’m really excited to support in the future!

Since my cookbook is all about creating fun, rainbowy, unicorn-inspired foods, I felt it especially necessary to provide options for creating these beautiful colors without the cruelty, environmental destruction, and health risks involved.

If you are short on time or these are not cost effective for you or difficult to find, there are pre-made natural colors that you can buy as well. India Tree, Color Garden, and Color Kitchen, all make natural and vegan food coloring that you can buy in stores or online.

The following are my alternatives to artificial dyes, using natural ingredients. I recommend that you mix each color in a small glass jar and keep chilled in the fridge until needed to color all sorts of foods, such as smoothies, cakes, donuts, frostings, cookies, etc. Always shake the jar before using as separation will occur. I will be using these dyes I created in many of the recipes in the book I am writing.

*Though I have not included it in the official recipes, you can make orange colored dye by mixing the beet color with the turmeric color until you get a satisfactory shade of orange. It may be easier to mix into the food item you are making rather than in a jar, as the colors appear darker than they will in the food you are mixing them into.

Vegan Friendly Natural Food Dye Recipes

IMG_3692

Red

  • ½ cup hot water
  • ¼ tsp agar agar powder (optional, you could use cornstarch or arrowroot if you do not have it)
  • ¾ tsp beet powder

Yellow

  • ½ cup hot water
  • ¼ tsp agar agar powder (optional)
  • ½ tsp ground turmeric

Green

  • ½ cup hot water
  • ¼ tsp agar agar powder (optional)
  • ½ tsp spirulina powder

Blue

  • ½ cup hot water
  • ¼ tsp agar agar powder
  • ½ tsp butterfly pea tea powder

Purple

  • ½ cup hot water
  • ¼ tsp agar agar powder
  • ¼ tsp butterfly pea tea powder
  • ¼ tsp beet powder

IMG_3695Here is a picture of some cookie dough I colored using red, purple, yellow, and green dye I made.

 

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Vegan Mofo 2014: Pizza day! (Day 26) Walnut Meat Cheeseburger Pizza!

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I think this is one of the prettiest pizzas I’ve ever made. So many colors and it was amazingly tangy, cheesy, crunchy and meaty all in one bite! The crust is the same pretzel crust that I made on this pizza too, because I realized it’s my favorite pizza crust now whether it’s pretzel dough or not.

Oh man, I made this awhile ago and now I want it again. My mouth is watering thinking of it, but I am also feeling a bit lazy today, so that’s not going to happen.

😦

Ingredients:

One batch pretzel pizza crust dough (recipe here)

1 batch of the walnut meat (recipe here)

Sauce:

1/2 cup canned tomato sauce

  • 1 tsp agave nectar
  • 1/2 tsp ume plum vinegar (optional)
  • 1 1/2 tbsp yellow mustard

Other fixings:

  • 1 dill pickle, sliced into thin circles
  • 3/4 cup daiya cheddar cheese shreds
  • 1/2 cup shredded iceberg lettuce
  • 1/2 cup shredded red cabbage

Directions:

  1. After making the batch of walnut meat, turn the oven up to 450 degrees F.
  2. Roll out the dough into a large circle and place on a pizza pan.
  3. Combine the sauce ingredients and spread across the crust.
  4. Sprinkle the walnut meat all over.
  5. Place pickle circles around the pizza.
  6. Sprinkle 1/2 cup daiya cheddar on top, then sprinkle the lettuce and cabbage, and top with another 1/4 cup of daiya.
  7. Bake for 10 minutes.

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Playing a bit of catch up-tofu, hibachi, gyros, and taco salad

I have been a bit missing in action lately. Sorry!

Next weekend I am playing food Coordinator again at the Ladies Rock camp through Girls Rock RI so that will be super fun, but I will also be super busy.

Here is what  I’ve been cooking up!

photo 3 (2)This is what I made for breakfast today. It was the Curry Scrambled Tofu with Cabbage and Caraway from the Vegan Brunch Cookbook by Isa Chandra Moscowitz. My kitchen still smells absolutely amazing from cooking it, and it’s now 3:30pm (I got up at 8 to cook it). Yay. Also, I love that it’s a fusion of Russian and Indian food together, which are two cuisines I would not think to pair together but love individually. They work together too, to my surprise. I always reduce the salt when I cook by a lot…I am not a fan of it and try to cook without it when possible. I did not always do that, though.

photo 2 (2)I made vegan hibachi vegetables with a vegan version of my favorite Japanese dipping sauce (called “yum yum sauce” on recipe sites). Basically for the veggies you just cut 4 zucchini into bite size pieces and 1 1/2 white or yellow onions and stir fry it with 2 tbsp Earth Balance and 4 tbsp soy sauce until cooked thoroughly (I think 5-8 minutes?). For the mushrooms just chop them and cook them in 1 tbsp Earth  Balance and 1 tbsp soy sauce. For the Yum Yum sauce I used this recipe  and made vegan substitutions with vegenaise and Earth Balance and used a bit less water (or you can just add more vegenaise after and stir it up to make it thicker like I did). It’ll need to rest overnight before you eat it so the flavors set.

photo 1 (2)

Tempeh Gyros with tofu Tzatziki! From this recipe! They were so good and quite healthy! The Tzatziki is made with silken tofu and you can’t even tell it’s not made with yogurt of some type. The only thing I realized is that there is an error in the recipe and they do not tell you what to do with the cucumbers they allude to later (like how much to use and how to cut them up) so I just omitted them and put sliced cucumbers into the sandwich.

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I used the recipe from the Eat To Live Cookbook for the taco salad. It’s really healthy, but could use some kind of improvement in flavor I think that I cannot quite pinpoint. Maybe some more spices or some cherry tomatoes, I do not know! It has corn, black beans, red onion, red and green bell pepper, and a “guacamole” dressing.

That’s all for now! For dinner tonight I am making the Bacon Cheeseburger Pie from Betty Goes Vegan, so I will let you all know how that goes sometime soon!