There is not currently a legal definition of a natural coloring. This means that in the United States, you will not find the term as a label descriptor or in the ingredient content listing. Most people consider all color additives which are not FD&C numbered colors to be 'natural'. The FDA actually separates the two types as defined by those 'exempt from certification' and 'requiring certification'. This is the result of the complex food regulatory environment spanning over one hundred years of modifications, studies and challenges. Many manufacturers take the position that if the ingredient exists in nature, be it agricultural, biological or mineral in form than it is indeed natural. Titanium dioxide is a color additive that falls under the exempt category, and that is a great example of why it is difficult for regulators and companies which produce these products to agree. The alert consumer will be able to easily identify these contents once made aware of their presence.
Is the worlds most popular food color additive actually natural? Caramel color is found in foods and beverages far and wide around the globe. There is no question Caramel color is derived from natural sources, but the debate centers around the fact that most often the production begins with a refined sugar which is not a natural 'state of existence". Luckily for those who read food packaging labels, the additive must be specifically referenced in the contents listing.
With Halloween right around the corner, it is a good time to begin preparing to set forth guidelines for the enormous availability and temptation of candy and other junk foods. A friend posted the first sign of a Halloween candy display well over a month ago and the industry is in full force as usual with marketing campaigns aimed at customers who will hand out the sugary treats on or around October 31st. While there has not been a definitive link to hyperactivity with artificial orange coloring, it is safe to say that the massive amount of refined sugar causes quite an imbalance in our bodies around this holiday. If only pumpkins were more appetizing, since they contain a good dose of beta-carotene and are found on a great many porches this month!
One of the mega chains smoothie products caused a bit of an uproar within the vegan community after an employee took a photograph of the new product packaging for the Strawberry flavored version which contained a detailed ingredient listing. The posted online images listed Carmine extract, which contributes a pinkish-red hue to beverages and food products. Since Carmine extract is derived from ground cochineal beetles indigenous to Latin America. It appears unlikely that the company was attempting to mislead its customers however, as the packaging stated Cochineal extract as the offending ingredient. The animal rights group PETA, in relation to this story, reported that it requires more than 70,000 insects to produce one pound of the natural coloring. An online petition was started that garnered over 6500 entries protesting the use in the product, which has now been reformulated without the offending blend.