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Purple sweet potatoes may replace bugs for food coloring


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The spectacular colors in foods on grocery store shelves comes from synthetic dyes, but scientists are now trying to figure out how to extract color from food itself.

Some of the more spectacular red colors – like the pink hue of your strawberry-flavored Frappucino – come from the crushed shells of bugs. But naturally purple sweet potatoes, a rarely grown variety, may offer a new food coloring alternative. But extracting that purple is not an easy task, said Stephen Talcott, a food chemist at Texas A&M University. He presented his research on extracting dyes from sweet potatoes at the American Chemical Society National Meeting and Exposition on Sunday.

“Our work with purple sweet potatoes has been going for a couple of years, partially in response to a trend within the food industry to move away from synthetic colors — primarily shades of red,” he said. “Purple sweet potatoes are a great alternative.”

Read more at NPR’s food blog “The Salt”.

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