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Tag: artificial colorings

Updated 4/19/12: Starbucks has announced that due to the controversy surrounding the use of cochineal extract, that they will use lycopene to color their Strawberry & Creme Frappuccino and Strawberry Banana Smoothie.  Starbucks is also dropping cochineal extract in their Raspberry Swirl Cake, Birthday Cake Pop, Mini Donut with pink icing and Red Velvet Whoopie Pie.

Starbucks Stawberry Frappuccino

Virtually every news outlet is reporting that Starbucks is using cochineal extract in their popular strawberry beverages.  When I read this, my first thought was, how did people find out? Starbucks doesn’t post or provide any of their ingredients to consumers (only allergy information and the required nutritional information). Apparently, a vegan Starbucks barista notified the site, www.thisdishisvegetarian.com, that Starbucks had changed the formula of their Strawberries & Cream Frappucinos and Strawberry Smoothies to contain cochineal extract. The barista also included a few cell phone pics of the packages to show the ingredient lists.

So what’s all the fuss about cochineal extract? It’s made from…bugs.  It’s used as an alternative to artificial dyes and can be found in many foods including yogurt, candy, applesauce, baked goods, and other red processed foods. Here is an excerpt from our Cochineal Extract Ingredient Report on exactly what this dye is and how it’s made:
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The check arrived after a decent Chinese dinner of Egg Foo Young and Stir Fry Vegetables. As is customary these days, the paper check was buried under a pile of individually wrapped fortune cookies.  My 3-year old’s eyes greatly enlarged as she realized the noisy packages were filled with dessert. I let her select her cookie and explained why there was an itty bitty piece of paper inside. This was my fortune:

You will take a chance in something in the near future.
Daily Numbers 0, 3, 9.  Lotto Six #’s 22, 43, 11, 13, 4, 27

As I crumbled up the wrapper, I noticed that the ingredients were listed in small red lettering.

INGREDIENTS: Flour, Sugar, Water, Hydrogenated Vegetable Shortening, Margarine, Corn Starch, FD&C Yellow 5 & 6, FD&C Red #40, Citric Acid and Preserved with Sodium Benzoate.

I know it’s dessert, but this cookie barely has one redeeming ingredient to it’s name. It’s really just refined white flour mixed with sugar, trans fats, colors and preservatives. It’s funny to me that they have to add 3 different types of artificial colorings to achieve that “baked brown” look. I wonder what color the cookie would be without it.

My fortune is quite amusing and accurate. I’m taking a chance with my health just by eating the cookie! In fairness, one fortune cookie is not going to kill you, but understand you’re eating crap, even if it does come in a decorative package with lotto number suggestions.

Image: Ksayer1 via Flickr

How Healthy is Your Ice Cream?

July is National Ice Cream Month!

In celebration of this sweet treat, check out our new infographic. How many scoops did you get? What’s your favorite ice cream? We want to hear your comments!

Click on the image below to see the full flowchart and to get the embed code to add it to your site.

Click on the image to see the full infographic

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Dina (left) & Robyn (right) in San Francisco

It was a bright, yet breezy day on the Embarcadero pier in San Francisco on Thursday. I was still buzzing from meeting food activist, Robyn O’Brien a few minutes earlier and knew I was in for a treat. The setting was the patio of The Plant Cafe, an organic restaurant which overlooks the sparkling water. It was an intimate group of food bloggers at a luncheon sponsored by Stonyfield. The mood was lively and inquisitive, and as we all took our seats, featured speaker Robyn O’Brien stood up to tell her story. To find out how she was transformed from an everyday American mom into “the Erin Brochovich of the food movement,” watch her story in this TEDx Austin video. My blog post today attempts to recapture to essence of Robyn’s message through a series of her quotes.
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In a disappointing (but perhaps not surprising) decision, the FDA panel that met earlier this week to discuss whether there is a link between children’s consumption of synthetic color additives and adverse effects on behavior, has determined there is not enough evidence to justify a warning label. It was a close vote (8 to 6 vote in favor of rejecting the warnings), but as they say ‘almost doesn’t count’. The panel did acknowledge that some children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) may be vulnerable to food colorings as well as a host of other food additives. To keep the food producers happy, though, they were quick to point out that those children have a unique intolerance to those additives, meaning there’s nothing ‘wrong’ per se with the additives, it’s simply the kids with the problem. Right. With the European Union already requiring warning labels on artificial food colorings, it makes us wonder what type of study would the FDA need to finally add a warning, and is such a study going to take place? I mean if they ruled based on lack of evidence, shouldn’t they do some more studies to get the evidence?

Sources:
Harvard Health Publications
Image: Jonas Dalidd

The FDA’s Food Advisory Committee will meet Wednesday and Thursday (March 30-31, 2011) in Silver Spring, MD, to discuss whether there is a link between children’s consumption of synthetic color additives and adverse effects on behavior. This meeting is in part a response to a petition filed by the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) on June 3, 2008.

The CSPI petitioned the FDA to:

  • Ban the use of Yellow 5 and other food dyes.
  • In the interim, require a warning on foods containing these dyes
  • Correct the information the FDA gives consumers on their website and other publications on the impact of these dyes on behavior of some children
  • Require neurotoxicity testing of new food additives and food colors

For years, the Feingold Association, CSPI, consumer groups, activists, and parents have been trying to prove the link between artificial food colorings and wide array of adverse effects including hyperactivity, ADHD, skin rashes, sleep disorders and exacerbated asthma. In 2007, a University of Southampton study concluded that a diet with artificial colors increased hyperactivity in children.  In response to the study, the European Union now requires warning labels on foods containing specific dyes. To avoid the dreaded label, many European manufactures reformulated products with natural food colorings or removed dyes all together. In the US, artificial food dyes are found in hundreds and thousands of processed foods and it is extremely difficult for people to avoid. It will be very interesting to see what the Food Advisory Committee’s conclusion is and whether they will make any revised statements on food dyes or new requirements of food manufactures.

Sources:
FDA
CSPI
Lancet
Image: Jonas Dalidd

This Ingredient Spotlight is a regular feature from Be Food Smart. Check back regularly to see new ingredients.

Happy New Year! Today’s ingredient is an artificial coloring which has been linked to headaches, skin rashes, hives and hyperactivity in children. Skip the mint chip ice cream and go for vanilla next time!

Tartrazine

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Names: FD&C Yellow No.5, Y4, E102

Uses: Coloring

Found In: candy, soft drinks, cereal, gelatin desserts, baked goods, ice cream, pudding, snack foods, energy drinks, flavored chips, jam, yogurt, pickles, dessert powders, custard

Description: This lemon yellow dye is derived from coal tar. It’s used for yellow, but can be mixed with other colors such as Brilliant Blue to create shades of green. The FDA requires that Yellow No. 5 be specifically identified on the ingredient line because some people are very sensitive to it. Due to several studies on children and hyperactivity, the European Union requires food containing this colorant to have a label which states: “may have an adverse effect on activity in children” (see full report for link). Also see Food, Drug & Cosmetic Colors (FD&C).

Possible Health Effects: Serious allergic reactions can occur in those with sensitivities to aspirin. Other effects include: asthma, hives, headache, skin…read more on Tartrazine.

Related Ingredient: FD&C Blue #1

Copyright August 8, 2010 Be Food Smart

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Be Food Smart was created to educate and inform the public about what’s really in the foods we eat every day. The site has a huge database of food additives, chemicals, food colorings, sweeteners, and preservatives and allows one to search for over 400 ingredient names. Our unique ingredient reports contain simple and easy to understand descriptions, alternate names, possible health effects, and allergy information. The site is completely free and is a wonderful resource for parents, teachers, health care professionals, dietitians, and concerned consumers.