Step aside NutraSweet and Blue Dye No. 1. A new study finds the nation's food industry is increasingly turning away from artificial sweeteners and additives in favor of naturally derived ingredients, as health-conscious consumers are increasingly shunning fake sugars, fats, and colorings.
Extracts from algae, rosemary, and monk fruit could soon replace synthetic ingredients and food additives such as aspartame (Nutrasweet), BHT, and food colorings, reports Chemical & Engineering News, the weekly newsmagazine of the American Chemical Society.
Research advances are enabling this shift from artificial colors, sweeteners, and preservatives to naturally derived ones, said Melody M. Bomgardner, senior editor at C&EN.
Bomgardner said rising consumer concern over negative health effects of artificial ingredients and additives is fueling the trend in the food industry. She noted recent studies have linked some artificial colorings to hyperactivity in children, while others have suggested that synthetic preservatives may cause cancer in rodents.
"These results are sinking into the consumer psyche," write the authors of the new report, noting almost a quarter of U.S. consumers say they read food labels to check for artificial colors and flavors — 15 percent more than the year before.
As a result, many food manufacturers are turning to colors derived from foods, such as turmeric, as well as new fermentation routes for natural yellows, reds, and purple dyes. They are also creating new preservatives and sweeteners from herbs (such as rosemary), monk fruit, and other plant-based sources, the article states.
Last summer, for instance, M&Ms candy maker Mars received approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to color their blue treats with an extract from blue-green algae. Scientists are also investigating new natural ways to preserve meat, produce vanilla, and sweeten foods without the calories.
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