What Are Artificial Colours Made Of? How Safe Are They?

Don't you love the beautiful orange gravy of Butter Chicken? Or the resplendent red on your birthday cake and candies? We all love the way food colours bring alive a dish, completely transforming it and leaving us asking for more.

Sarika Rana  |  Updated: December 01, 2017 17:18 IST

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What Are Artificial Colours Made Of? How Safe Are They?
Highlights
  • Dont you love the beautiful orange gravy of Butter Chicken
  • Food dyes or artificial food colours use chemicals that may not be health
  • Food colourings have been used for centuries now
Don't you love the beautiful orange gravy of Butter Chicken? Or the resplendent red on your birthday cake and candies? We all love the way food colours bring alive a dish, completely transforming it and leaving us asking for more. Artificial colours have actually helped the food connoisseurs of the world to experiment more with food and make it not just a treat to the palate, but a treat to the eyes too. These artificial colours make food look appealing, but at what cost? Food dyes or artificial food colours use chemicals that may not be healthy to use on a regular basis.

What are artificial food colours?



Let us first make the distinction between artificial and natural food colours. Natural colouring agents like Saffron, or even haldi, are good to use in every day cooking. In fact, they come with a host of benefits that go beyond just their coloring capacity. 'Artificial' food colours, on the other hand, are made in labs, these are chemical substances that are developed to enhance the appearance of food by giving it artificial colour. Food colourings have been used for centuries now. Earlier they were created from coal tar, nowadays they are made with petroleum. The eye-catching bright colour that you see on those pink/green/blue cakes on display windows are achieved through the addition of artificial food colouring.
 

food colour

Let us first make the distinction between artificial and natural food colours

According to Chief Nutritionist Priya Bharma from Sri Balaji Action Medical Institute, "Artificial coloring helps to make food more captivating but at the cost of health, causing everything from hyperactivity and allergic reactions to cancer. Artificial colors are high in calories and less in nutrients and are mostly found in processed junk foods. For example a royal blue dye found in candy, ice cream, cereal and snacks. Focus on eating whole and unprocessed food like dairy products, unflavored nuts, unpolished cereals, fruits and vegetables etc."



A lot has been said about the safety of food colours as they may have toxic substances that might be hazardous for the body. Even if these food colours are 'approved' how you or your family react to these may be different form how your neighbours react. These are not banned substances, but each one of us may react differently to them. If you are worried about persistent allergic reactions triggered by the eating of colourful candies and bakery items then consult a doctor today to clear out any doubts.



The possible risks of consuming artificial food colours



According to the study published in The Lancet, food colours showed an increase in hyperactivity after kids consumed foods containing artificial food colours. In fact, food colours have been found to cause skin allergies, especially the red colouring that is also attributed to causing cancer. Yellow food colour has been known to aggravate asthma symptoms. However, none of them have been conclusive. There are only seven artificial food colours that have been extensively tested by FDA, however, they may still be under scrutiny.
 



Comments

Whether it is proved or not, one should limit the consumption of artificial food colours considering they have a generous amount of chemicals in them, plus they are added in more and more processed foods, which are as it is dangerous for one's health, especially in the case of children. While food manufacturers cannot restrict the use of artificial food colours processed items, it is always good to ensure a limited usage of the colours. In case you wish to use food colours, you can use natural food colours that are healthier and safer to use.



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