The color of food and drink is just as important as the smell and taste when it comes to convincing us to eat or drink them.
The culinary arts take into account color psychology (and possibly food coloring) for food presentation, as certain colors can stimulate or turn off the appetite.
Cats, in contrast to most humans, have a more acute sense of smell and taste than of sight. Cat food manufacturers use food dye to make their products more eye-catching, despite the fact that it is not thought to be harmful.
But, can cats eat colored foods? Yes, technically, but there are some caveats to keep in mind.
What is Food Coloring?
Any dye, pigment, or other substance that can impart color to a food, drug, cosmetic, or the human body is considered a food coloring by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) permits the use of two types of color additives: those that are water soluble and those that are found in fats and oils. Colorants used in the food industry can be natural (derived from plants, animals, or minerals) or artificial.
The FDA monitors these additives to guarantee their products are safe and correctly labeled.
Coal tar, which was originally used to create food dyes but is now only found in over-the-counter medicines, is a carcinogen. Petroleum, a liquid refined from rocks, has replaced coal tar as a fuel source. It’s in everything from food to asphalt to paint to gasoline to food.
Natural Food Coloring
Food coloring has traditionally come from natural dyes used by manufacturers for hundreds of years. Those who want to see less processed food in the world have been advocating for the use of natural dyes whenever possible.
They are more expensive than synthetic colors and may alter the taste slightly. Some examples of natural dyes are:
- Carotenoids can be a vibrant shade of red, yellow, or orange. Beta-carotene, one of the most widely used carotenoids, is responsible for the vibrant orange color found in sweet potatoes and pumpkin. It’s also used to dye cheese and margarine.
- To add a splash of color to treats like mint ice cream and lime candies, manufacturers use chlorophyll, a pigment found in green plants.
- Jelly and brightly colored drinks are frequently dyed with anthocyanin because it produces such rich purple and blue hues.
- Mustard gets its distinctively golden hue from the addition of turmeric.
Artificial Food Coloring
There are many natural colors available, but in most cases, artificial colors are used instead. It’s easier and cheaper to mass-produce synthetic colors, and they last longer than natural ones.
Less than ten artificial food colors have been approved by the FDA as safe for both pets and humans when used as directed. However, some of them are illegal in other nations because of health concerns.
- The first shade of blue, also called Brilliant Blue, is used in a variety of foods and drinks. Belgium, France, Germany, Norway, Switzerland, Sweden, and Austria all have prohibitions against it.
- Blue No. 2: Indigo is a prohibited color in Norway.
- Third Green: Turquoise is not permitted in the European Union.
- Color No. 40, also known as Allura Red, is a food dye used in a wide variety of processed foods, including beverages, cereals, candies, and fruit snacks. Its use is outlawed across the continent.
- Number 5 Yellow: Hue Canned vegetables, cheese, drinks, hot dogs, salad dressings, candy, and ice cream all contain tartrazine, also known as yellow. Norway, Austria, and Finland have all put a ban on it.
Why is Food Coloring Used? Is It Safe?
Do you think a gray hotdog sounds appetizing? Yuck!
Dye additives and corrective dyes are used to modify the color of foods and drinks. It helps restore hues that have faded due to heat, sunlight, or dampness.
When it comes to our cat’s well-being, we’re very careful about what we choose. There’s a wide variety of foods available for feline consumption.
The nutrients they need to live a long and healthy life can only be obtained through the food they eat.
Many commercially prepared cat foods have been artificially colored to increase their appeal to pet owners; however, these dyes add no nutritional value to the food.
Food coloring is generally safe for cats, but there are a few things to keep in mind when shopping for cat food or treats that contain food coloring.
There is not enough evidence to consider food dyes unsafe, according to the Food and Drug Administration and the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). Until proven otherwise, regulatory bodies consider it to be risk-free.
Red 40 may be linked to hyperactivity in children and allergies in some people, according to some studies.
Studies have shown that carcinogens similar to those in cigarettes can be found in Yellow 6. Animal studies have found connections between Yellow 6, Blue 2, and Green 3 and kidney, brain, and bladder tumors.
Petco, a chain with nearly 1,500 stores and an extensive online presence, updated its ingredient guidelines for its pet foods in 2018.
Artificial colors, flavors, and preservatives were taken out of all pet food and treats by May of this year. This included products for dogs, cats, small animals, fish, and reptiles.
Petco used to make about $100 million a year from selling pet food made with synthetic ingredients.
After reviewing AAFCO and FDA guidelines and speaking with wellness experts, veterinarians, and nutritionists, the company decided to raise the standards of the foods they sell.
Companies like J.M. Smucker and General Mills spent billions on the Nutrish and Blue Buffalo Brands because they recognized a market opportunity.
Petco is advocating for a new ingredient standard to be implemented in pet food and is encouraging other companies to follow suit.
There is a dearth of studies looking at the effects of food coloring on cats and other pets. Protein, like chicken or beef, rather than food dyes, is the usual culprit in feline food allergies.
What About Cats and Food Coloring?
Few studies have looked into whether or not food coloring is harmful to pets.
The use of food coloring in cat food has been deemed safe by the Food and Drug Administration. Food coloring allergies in cats are also uncommon.
Protein is the most common allergen in cats, especially chicken, beef, fish, and dairy. But if you think your cat has an allergy to food coloring, make an appointment with the vet. They may also have problems with drugs or alcohol.
Food Allergy Symptoms
Constant itching and inflammation of the skin, especially in the legs, paws, armpits, genitalia, belly, ears, face, and armpits, are the most common symptoms of food allergies in cats. Itching could lead to excessive scratching and grooming, which could lead to hair loss and skin damage.
Some cats may experience gastrointestinal distress, such as vomiting and diarrhea, and may begin scooting because of rectal itching.
If your cat shows any of these symptoms, it’s time to make an appointment with the vet. The best way to figure out what’s bothering your cat’s immune system is to put it on a special diet of novel proteins.
Is There Natural Food Coloring?
The American Chemical Society compares food coloring to lipstick or nail polish. Without food coloring, hotdogs, for instance, would be a dull gray.
Some food dyes do have natural origins.
- Beta-carotene is the most prevalent carotenoid. This pigment is responsible for the vivid hues found in carrots, pumpkins, and sweet potatoes. It’s used to give foods like cheese and margarine vibrant hues of red, orange, and yellow.
- The process of photosynthesis results in the production of chlorophyll, which is then present in green plants. Chlorophyll is commonly used to color candies and ice creams with lime and mint flavors.
- Cranberries, blueberries, and some types of grapes contain a pigment called anthocyanin, the source of blue and deep purple coloration. Its solubility in water makes it ideal for use in food coloring, and it gives blue corn chips their vibrant hue.
- The bright yellow spice turmeric is derived from an Indian plant. Mustard is typically colored with it.
- Foods have been dyed with carminic acid from the cochineal beetle for centuries. One pound of a deep red carminic acid color can be obtained by crushing about 70,000 of these insects. It’s completely edible, if not particularly appetizing. The presence of carminic acid, carmine, cochineal, or natural red 4 in a food’s ingredient list indicates the presence of cochineal beetles.
Paprika, saffron, selected fruit and vegetable juices, caramel, and beets are a few additional examples of natural sources of color.
Adding food coloring to cat food won’t hurt them, but it also won’t help them. It’s meant for people like us who own cats.
The color of the food is irrelevant to a cat. You should prioritize finding a cat food that contains high levels of quality proteins.