With recent reports claiming that food coloring might increase hyperactivity in children
, leading the FDA to say that there isn't enough proof
that such dyes are really a problem for most, it has some people asking if we really need food coloring at all. While there's one argument, which says that if you're eating food that needs to be colored, you're not eating food (think of that as the Michael Pollan argument
). But, on the other side, some people are wondering why the same products can't be made without food coloring. Apparently, those people aren't aware of just how much color impacts taste
. Apparently it can more or less override our tastebuds. I'd always heard that smell could override tastebuds, but it sounds like color might do an even better job.
In an experiment with "uncolored" Cheetos Crunchy Cheese Flavored snacks, apparently, the bland color matched people's feelings about the taste:
Their fingers did not turn orange. And their brains did not register much cheese flavor, even though the Cheetos tasted just as they did with food coloring.
"People ranked the taste as bland and said that they weren't much fun to eat," said Brian Wansink, a professor at Cornell University and director of the university's Food and Brand Lab.
Tests in the other direction also had a similar impact. Seeing a different color than is actually the flavor can make that flavor seem apparent:
When tasteless yellow coloring is added to vanilla pudding, consumers say it tastes like banana or lemon pudding. And when mango or lemon flavoring is added to white pudding, most consumers say that it tastes like vanilla pudding.
Of course, this may be tempting me to start adding more
food coloring to various things, rather than less...