Whitman’s Sampler — with Tartrazine

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A few days ago, the family member’s face and tongue mysteriously swelled up to an alarming degree. We knew it was tartrazine, but could not figure out what she ate that had yellow dye in it. After exhaustive examination of everything she had eaten, we looked on the Whitman’s Sampler box I had bought. There it was; along with Red 40, Yellow 6 and Blue 1!

Talk about existential disappointment! What is more quintessentially American than the Whitman’s Sampler? Hopeful beaux have been showing up for dates with bouquets and Whitman’s Samplers since the days of rumble seats and straw boaters. It was like finding out that there was no Norman Rockwell and all those charming pictures were produced in Chinese sweatshops.

whitman 2What is the point of putting all these artificial colors in chocolates? Apart from the white version, chocolates are all brown, anyway. Chocolate is the essence of brownness. It does not need artificial dye to make it brown, so why sneak it into products that would not be expected to contain dye? Adding food dyes to chocolate is like bleaching milk to make it white or adding bootblack to licorice whips. Estimates of tartrazine sensitivity range from one in 10,000 to one in 100,000, but unnecessary inclusion of tartrazine in foods and pharmaceuticals puts that small minority at risk despite the lack of any benefit.

There are many products that include tartrazine, although the color is irrelevant. For example, Sucrets honey-lemon throat, cough and dry mouth lozenges contain tartrazine. They are packaged in a metal tin and the lozenges are wrapped in foil. What is the point of adding tartrazine? The color of the lozenge has no effect on the sale of the product. After buying the product, opening the tin and unwrapping the lozenge, will the customer be concerned about the color? It is an unremarkable off-white, anyway!

Many prescriptions are colored with tartrazine. The drug manufacturers obviously have little regard for product safety, since the labeling of prescriptions as dispensed is unlikely to list dyes. Furthermore, patients will be concerned about the efficacy of the medication, not its appearance.whitman 1
Although it some sense to use artificial food coloring in candies and pastries, tartrazine and other food dyes are common in too many prepared foods that do not depend on attractive coloration. Even for jelly beans and frosting, natural color can be substituted for artificial dyes at only minor additional cost and labeling the products as free of artificial color would increase sales and profit.

Come on, Whitman’s, leave out the tartrazine. It will not cost you anything and may help your market penetration. It seems that you and other food and drug producers are using food dyes without considering the benefits of natural alternatives or whether food dyes are even useful in selling the products.

John B. Payne, Attorney
Garrison LawHouse, PC
Dearborn, Michigan 313.563.4900
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 800.220.7200

©2016 John B. Payne, Attorney