Natural Ingredients to Replace Synthetic Ones in Food

The food industry is making a major shift in response to the fact that label-conscious grocery shoppers are increasingly shunning synthetic ingredients and food additives such as Blue No. 1, BHT, and aspartame. Extracts from algae, rosemary and monk fruit could soon replace those substances, according to reports in Chemical & Engineering News in 2014.  

A release from the American Chemical Society reports that Melody M. Bomgardner, senior editor at C&EN, notes that the trend has built momentum as concern over negative health effects of artificial ingredients and additives grows. Recent studies have suggested a link between some artificial colorings and hyperactivity in children. Others have suggested that certain synthetic preservatives may cause cancer in rodents. These results are sinking into the consumer psyche. By 2013, almost a quarter of U.S. consumers reported that they read food labels to check for artificial colors and flavors. That's 15 percent more than the year before. In Europe, regulations spurred a faster changeover and have largely driven the dramatic shift in global sales toward natural colors. In the $1.5 billion market, growth of the latter has overtaken synthetics, which have plateaued.

Now many food manufacturers are turning to colors derived from foods, such as turmeric; to new fermentation routes for natural yellows, reds and purple dyes; and to rosemary and monk fruit as a preservative and sweetener, respectively, the article states. Natural green and blue food colorings are harder to come by, but researchers are finding sources for these as well. Last summer, M&Ms candy maker Mars got the OK from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to color their blue treats with an extract from blue-green algae. [ThirdAge editor’s note: What good is natural blue coloring if people will still be eating sugary treats?] Scientists are also investigating new natural ways to preserve meat, produce vanilla, and sweeten foods without the calories. 

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