Examining the Links Between Color and Food

Staff Writer
From the FDA and Food Dyes

What would food look like without color? Imagine if all the gummy bears in the world were  clear, or ketchup no longer held its iconic red hue. In restaurants, the sprig of parsley or basil that often tops a dish is meant to add a splash of color to the plate, to excite the customer's senses. This past week the discussion of color as it relates to food made headlines all over. 

On Wednesday a Food and Drug Administration advisory committee met to discuss whether certain dyes and additives used in processed foods could lead to hyperactivity in children. The panel concluded that artificial dyes are safe to eat in most cases and will therefore not carry a special warning label, as was originally proposed. 

The Food and Brand Lab at Cornell University conducted a taste test pairing original Cheetos up against their colorless counterparts, Naked Cheetos. Participants noted less cheese flavor in the Naked variety and missed that the original version turned their fingers orange. 

While the FDA met last week Grub Street asked chefs of New York restaurants for their opinion on the matter. Eric Ripert reportedly doesn't use dyes in any of his food at Le Bernadin, however, Thomas Keller uses dyes to color his macarons. 

Malaysian-born artist, Tattfoo Tan has created a project called the Nature Matching System based on the fruits and vegetables he would buy from his local farmer's market. After photographing the produce, Tan used Photoshop's eyedropper tool to identify the colors that represent them, 88 in all. Tan is working with New York City public schools to paint his murals in schoolyards across the city.