February 22, 2016
Last Updated:
March 4, 2021

America Is Saying No to Artificial Food Coloring

Do you remember when Heinz released purple ketchup? What about orange Oreos during Halloween? It seems like everywhere we turn the aisles of the supermarket are filled with vibrantly colored snacks and bright packaging, and we’re not talking about the good kinds…

Luckily, in a more health-conscious 2016, people seem to be embracing the “less is more” belief when it comes to the ingredients in their food. In fact, as a result of consumer preference, Mars, Incorporated recently announced it will be removing all artificial colors from its food products over the next five years. While we do encourage a diet filled with whole foods that are least processed, at Integrative Nutrition we are thrilled to learn that consumers are starting to demand more natural packaged products and companies are actually listening as a result.

“Our consumers are the boss and we hear them. If it’s the right thing to do for them, it’s the right thing to do for Mars,” Grant F. Reid, president and CEO of Mars, said in a company news release.

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) says Mars’ move follows the “clean label” trend, in which companies are saying goodbye to artificial colors, dyes, flavors and preservatives. Kraft Foods, Campbell’s Soup Co. and Nestle USA have also vowed to make similar changes, signaling a positive turn in the food industry.

While Mars says that artificial colors pose no risk to human health or safety, we’re of the belief “the purer, the better.” The EWG says it questions the company’s claim that these colors are harmless, as research studies (although inconclusive) have shown that they can affect behavior and attention span in children. In fact, the EWG lists artificial colors in its Dirty Dozen Guide to Food Additives because of these possible behavioral issues. The EWG also states caramel colors III and IV have the potential to cause tumors, according to a National Toxicology Program Study. The European Food Safety Authority has also voiced concerns about the possible link between artificial colors and cancer.

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You may even be surprised by how many foods contain caramel color (like some breads!), and the EWG points out that this ingredient may also be simply listed as “artificial color,” so watch for both labels. You should also look out for other artificial color ingredients such as Yellow No. 5 and Red No. 40.

Luckily, you can’t go wrong with foods that are born with color. Think vibrant red berries, purple potatoes, orange peppers and more. Choose organic when you can but don’t stress if it’s unavailable to you. At Integrative Nutrition, we believe in eating a rainbow of natural colors for balance. You can choose red fruits and veggies for heart health, purple for longevity and orange for cancer prevention. Check out this IIN recipe that uses kale, zucchini and red peppers to create a completely colorful plate. 

Here’s hoping more companies will follow Mars in the clean label trend!

Do you look for caramel color and other artificial colorings on food labels? Tell us why in the comments below. 

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