We often see the words like all natural, 100% natural, natural color, natural flavor, natural ingredients and natural anti-oxidants as the indications of healthy foods. The opposite is true when we read something like artificial flavor, artificial food coloring, synthetic chemical which we always see in a negative sense as the signs of an unhealthy food. However natural does NOT always mean safe and artificial is NOT a synonym for toxic. But what would you say about healthy dried fruits that were artificially colored?

Basic principle of toxicology pioneered by Paracelsus many centuries ago states: All substances are poisons; there are none that is not a poison. The right dose only differentiates the poison from a remedy. This eye-opening statement helps to understand why moderation in eating is so important for everyone regardless of what kind of food is eaten. But how can we control intake of the food dyes if manufacturers keep the added amounts in secret? This is why I have started to analytically detect and publish the food dye content in many popular foods and beverages.

I knew that beyond countless sodas and candies artificial food dyes are also added to chewing gums, pickles, some mustards and even fresh salmon. Do you know that Citrus Red No. 2 azo dye banned as a suspected carcinogen is still in use under the FDA approval for coloring the skins of oranges? And what if a mom decides to make candied orange peel and then treat her lovely babies to them? I knew that all too. But I would never imagine finding staggering amount of the artificial colors added to a dried fruit.

Yes, they add Yellow 5 and Yellow 6 to improve dried papaya! In a container of the SunTree Papaya Chunk purchased at a Wal-Mart store the following food dyes were detected by Vis-spectroscopy:

  • 140 mg/pack of FD&C Yellow 5 and
  • 130 mg/pack of FD&C Yellow 6

Total 270 mg of the azo dyes is a lot of the chemicals that have no positive bio-chemical role in the human body. Combined amount of Yellow 5 and Yellow 6 detected in the Farmer’s Fruit Mix produced by Waymouth Farms was 66 mg per 12 OZ (340 g) container. Again, the artificial colors came from the pieces of papaya and mango only whereas cranberries, apples, raisins and other fruits present in the same container were found clean.

To avoid exposure to the artificial food dyes you can sort out papaya and mango chunks and eat the rest. Interestingly, for some reason they do not add artificial colorants to the dry fruits other than papaya and mango: Yellow 5 and Yellow 6 are not listed on the labels of dried apricots, cranberries, blueberries, pineapples, etc., which you can buy separately. So the recommendation would be to carefully read the ingredient lists. This little work may well prevent you from wasting your money on artificially dyed dried fruits.