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Ancient Purple Carrot Finds New Life Coloring Food

Ancient Purple Carrot Finds New Life Coloring Food

Purple carrots along with other colored variates of carrots.

Tracie Cone | Associated Press Writer

It means there are two international standards for food additives. Companies that sell in both countries often use petroleum-based dyes in the U.S., such as Red 40 and Yellow 6, but beet root, carrots and paprika in the U.K.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest, a consumer advocacy group, last year petitioned the FDA for warning labels and an eventual ban. The FDA has not yet responded, and spokeswoman Stephanie Kwisnek says the agency “will continue to closely monitor the scientific literature for new information regarding hyperactivity in children and consumptions of additives.”

Consumers are already making a change toward natural products, and companies such as ColorMaker are working to meet the demand from food manufacturers. The company currently gets its purple carrot dye from an obscure source in Turkey, but would prefer an organic domestic supply if researchers can figure out how to extract the same richness of color from varieties suitable to California’s climate.

The company has joined Ann Marie D. Craig, Ph.D., an assistant professor of food chemistry at Cal Poly, to extract more concentrated anthocyanins to prepare the state’s puny-but-potent purple carrot crop for its potential new duty.

“For something to come to the consumer market, it takes a significant amount of time and research,” Craig said. “We are trying to get ahead on this.”

Purple carrots are especially attractive because they provide as much anthocyanin as the better known sources and are cheaper and easier to grow than blueberries.

Craig, who devotes her career to studying natural colorants, is looking for ways to stabilize anthocyanin-based vegetable dyes, which tend to turn brown when heated, red in acidic foods and blue in alkaline.

Her research is sponsored by Cal State’s Agricultural Research Initiative, which funds projects to create new markets for homegrown products.

“At the end of the day, California has the opportunity to become a major supplier,” Lauro said. “With a small regulatory change, a brand new market will develop and that will benefit carrots the Central Valley.”

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