Thursday, April 14, 2011

No More Artificial Colors

Three years ago, I did not pay much attention to artificial food dyes as my focus was the chocolate business which is not as impacted by this issue as the candy business. As many of you may know, a few years ago I found a high end gourmet hard candy lollipop that was selling for $6.50 in a Jacksonville retail shop and it changed my career drastically. The ingredients were not items I would want to feed my child and it was made in China. It was this finding that pushed me start paying closer attention to labels and to eventually open an all natural sweet shoppe.

As I began to focus on creating all natural sweets I quickly realized that using all natural colors, which are typically plant based in high heat hard candy, is tricky. It took some time but I conquered this challenge and as a result the tastes of the sweets are much better. Anyone who has ever eaten a cupcake covered with bright blue or red icing is aware that you can taste the chemical filled artificial dye. My costs are higher but I find my customers are okay with paying a little more for the quality and appreciate the extra effort taken to provide healthier ingredients.

There are many problems with artificial colors, one being that they are petroleum based, another is the fact that there is much research to support that they are triggers for children with autism, ADHD and ADD and last but not least, they are in everything.

While most consumers are aware that food with bright or unnatural colors likely contain food coloring, far fewer people know that seemingly "natural" foods such as oranges and salmon are sometimes also dyed to mask natural variations in color. At Sweet Pete’s we sell all natural ice cream. Our mint chocolate chunk ice cream is white and our strawberry is very light pink, consider this when you order your child a scoop of bright pink strawberry ice cream or deep blue Superman ice cream. Where are the fresh fruits that give the white cream only a hint of sweet color?

After long stating that no scientific evidence conclusively links the petroleum-based colorants to hyperactivity and other ills, last month the FDA agreed to reassess them. A panel of experts reviewed studies to suggest any policy changes. The FDA concluded its two day deliberation and has unfortunately voted 8 to 6 in favor of synthetic food dyes. It stated that, while dyes may cause allergic reactions in certain individuals, they do not pose a health risk to the general population.

Whatever the case may be, almost all expert nutritionists agree that it’s best to limit, if not completely avoid, chemically processed foods. In my sweet shoppe, I prohibit any artificial colors or flavors. I am proud to serve all natural sweets to my customers and their children.

Next week is Easter and many of you will dye eggs and make delicious sugar cookies. It is easy to make these items with all natural dyes!

•Sugar cookies- Follow your regular icing recipe and use drops of food coloring from India Tree or Nature’s Flavors instead of artificial. The natural color dye can be dropped into sugar and stirred to create all natural sanding sugar.

•Easter Egg Dyes- All natural dying kits are available at Whole Foods and other small natural food shops. If you are really hard core you can go to the following link to make your own dyes.


  1. Thank you SO much for not using artificial colors! :) I'm so wary of them now that I have a little one. It makes me happy to know that I can buy him sweet treats without future repercussions.

  2. I know this is an old post, but I was hoping you could either give me some tips or point me in the direction of some good all-natural food dye when making hard candies? My father and I make hard-tack once a year to give as holiday gifts. We learned my nephew cannot tolerate the red dye and wanted to use natural... but I'm reading that in the high heat of hard candy making it will just turn brown. If you were willing to give me any advice at all, I'd be so very appreciative!!! My email is

    Thank you!!