From the high-definition TV to the colorful foods that decorate our dinner plates, color is an undeniable enrichment in so many areas of our lives. The perception of color in any form is due to the remarkable process of our nervous system that allows us to gain sensory information through the eyes, ears and mouth.
For some, the color of particular foods is tied in part to memories. For instance, a tri-color ice cream treat might drum up warm summer nights spent chasing fireflies, and the yellow hue of American cheese may instantly make that grilled cheese sandwich seem richer, even cheesier, when compared to using another variety.
These sensory-charged food experiences can be further enhanced through the use of natural and artificial food dyes. Some food manufacturers prefer to use natural food dyes but depending on the preparation or cooking process, these natural dyes may not retain a true clarity and could even change the flavor profile. Breakdown of the natural flavor(s) results in reduced shelf life and a poor sensory experience for the consumer. In these cases, food manufacturers might choose an artificial food dye to enhance the unconscious perception of the food’s flavor. For instance, an orange-flavored food or drink might have more of a citrus flavor than one that is less orange.
What about links to hyperactivity, allergies or asthma? Despite online reports to the contrary, the American Academy of Pediatrics reports that, to date, there is little objective evidence to suggest that artificial food dyes cause hyperactivity, allergies or asthma. Note: all artificial food dyes must be approved by the Food and Drug Administration.
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