Whenever we eat some food , it is the color of food which attracts us more . Color enhances our appetite and desire towards the food. In order to make the food more appealing many food manufacturers use colorants. These can be natural or synthetic. Many foods have their natural colors and these are the indicator of the degree of sweetness and flavor . It also enables us to determine photochemical properties of food.
Let’s see what food colorants are all about.
WHAT ARE FOOD COLORANTS .
Food coloring agents are dye or pigments which impart color on its own or on reaction with other substance in food . According to FDA, there are two types of colorants. Naturally occurring colorants don’t have any preset level for consumption but synthetics do . Some examples of these colorants include Caramel coloring, Annatto, a reddish-orange dye made from the seed of the Achiote, Cochineal, a red dye derived from the cochineal insect, Dactylopius coccus., Betanin extracted from beets, Turmeric,Saffron,Paprika,Elderberry etc.
These play a major role in many cases such as,
- replacement of color lost during processing
- minimize batch-to-batch variations
- to raise the color already present
- to color the uncolored foods.
- Protecting flavors and vitamins from damage by light
- May keep certain foods tasting fresher for a long time .
WHAT EXACTLY AUTUMN LEAVES CONTAIN
A recent research has shown that these food additives can be derived from the falling autumn leaves. As we know autumn leaves are a depot of natural pigments and colors . By extracting the pigments we can reuse it to its best as a nutritional supplement or as a dye in food . Autumn leaves derive the color from the anthocyanin and carotenoid pigment present in it. It imparts orange and yellow color. In addition to it contains many significant compounds . These include proteins and carbohydrates and lignin and phenols. Pigments and substances present in the leaves have a wide range of uses in the food industry . It also has much health beneficiaries and has many health promoting factors. These are used as nutraceuticals.
WHAT PROMOTED THE RESEARCH
In Finland, the trees, as well as lands, are covered by colorful leaves in autumn. The leaves remain on the ground and transform into compost. Since these have many coloring pigments there are chances to derive the natural colorants from it. So VTT in Finland took a step forward and started the research . A team of diverse experts is working with keen interest to find the best solution .
“There are many natural substances and raw materials present in the leaves which have a wide use in the food industry and cosmetic industry” by Nordic Research andTechnology Company and VTT Technical Research center of Finland . The company engaged its team and collected the leaves all around the parks and gardens in Finland . Followed by processing in labs they were able to extract the substances. The leaves which are left untreated have very little use . In addition, they may lead to increased carbon dioxide concentration resulting from burning . So it is better to have an efficient use of these in order to have a better result and reduced wastage.
Liisa Nohynek , Senior Research Scientist, states that they are on the way to explore the process aspects of the leaves. In addition, they are also focusing on making the process eco-friendly . Necessary precautions to protect the compound are also there. The leaves have high nutritional value and these needs special attention . After certain tests, they will be able to set the limit of the safe consumption of these materials and the experiments are under progress.They are keeping the things confidential and in order to make it user-friendly, they are avoiding the use of toxic materials. To make the process more they are using proteins from microbial sources such as SCP (single cell protein).
European Food Safety Authority allows the use of the natural colorant. There is increasing demand in food industries. These give a natural look to the food and it contains healthy components.
OTHER CONSEQUENCES OF AUTUMN LEAVES
Now the question arises what about the raw materials which are left after extraction of the compounds. Well in this science era nothing goes as waste. Since we always find the ways to derive the best out of the residue . Studies show that the residue has a very wide use .It has many antimicrobial effects and used to prevent detrimental effects of microbes . In addition, it has used as compost to enhance soil fertility. The residual biomass also used in cosmetics and development of hygiene products. By modifying the pigments biotechnologically we can develop the bioactive compound which has a great use in pharmaceutical industry. The residual protein and carbohydrates also contribute to the nutrient rich feed for livestock.
The researchers are now giving emphasis on extracting the pigments on a large scale. So that it can be used largely in food industries. Exploitation of the pigments and its use as a colorant has many advantages.It makes the food sensible and ensures food safety. Some people have an allergic reaction to the artificial colorants while they respond normally to the natural things. Hence its processing can give rise a new rise in a direction of reducing the use of synthetic colors in food. The more we remain closer to nature the more we remain healthy. So its time to say bye to artificial colors.Let’s enrich the food with natural colors.