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DrasticDreamer's avatar

Can you taste red food coloring?

Asked by DrasticDreamer (19453 points ) January 6th, 2011

I used to work in a bakery, and did so for about 2½ years. I couldn’t tell you how many customers specifically told me that they didn’t want any red frosting used because “the food coloring makes the frosting taste really weird”. Or how many people called me after I had already made their cake, only to say, “Oh, yeah! No red frosting, it tastes funny”.

So which kind of person are you? Do you belong in camp “I Can Taste It”, or do you belong in camp “I Can’t Taste It”? Or am I the only weirdo in the world who has no clue what these people were talking about?

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19 Answers

Brian1946's avatar

The color of red frosting might have a psychosomatic influence on some people’s sense of taste.

I’ve never eaten cake with red frosting, so all I can say is that I’m in camp “I have a purely speculative idea of what those dudes were talking about”.

DrasticDreamer's avatar

@Brian1946 Now you should specifically go out of your way to taste red frosting for me, so that you can answer this question! :D

Brian1946's avatar

Cool- send me a slice and I’ll try to avoid any thoughts about vampire bakeries. :-p

lapilofu's avatar

Huh! I don’t think I’ve ever noticed any such taste, so I guess put me in the camp of “I can’t taste it.”

jazmina88's avatar

some red food colorings have beetle shells in it, red jello, etc.

Not_the_CIA's avatar

I just put a drop on my tongue. I didn’t taste it. But I smoke.

takaboom's avatar

I don’t know about red food coloring specifically, but it all depends. I like eating desserts with frosting and usually I prefer just plain white frosting because about 65% of the time, I really can taste the ink, depending on the brand and how deep the color is (and that’s annoying because I want to eat everything, no skipping the frosting)

All depends for me.

Seaofclouds's avatar

My mom bakes cakes and makes her own icing, the red icing always has a stronger taste to it. She always uses the Wilton food coloring for her cake icing. I’ve noticed the same taste in other red icings as well (from various bakeries), some stronger than others. I don’t notice the taste in other things with red dye though, so it must just be something about how the icing takes on some of the flavor from the dye (or how the chemicals in the icing react to the chemicals in the dye). I’ve also noticed royal blue icing has a similar taste, but not quite as strong as the red icing.

marinelife's avatar

No, you cannot taste it. No one can.

I think people’s reactions are a result of the brou haha about red dye No. 2:

” Last week the Food and Drug Administration rescinded its provisional approval of Red No. 2 because its safety could not be established. The FDA’s most recent tests showed a significant increase in cancer among aged female rats that had been fed large doses of the dye. Commissioner Alexander Schmidt stressed that the FDA found “no evidence of a public health hazard” from products made with the dye; according to one manufacturer, a human would have to drink 7,500 12-oz. cans of soda pop containing Red No. 2 every day to reach the rats’ level of consumption. Accordingly, the FDA will let companies sell completed products made with Red No. 2, but forbids them to use the dye any longer.

The ruling was more than 15 years in the making. In 1960 the FDA got jurisdiction over color additives and gave provisional approval to substances already in use, making the approval permanent when safety had been proved. The agency extended Red No. 2’s provisional status 14 times as tests continued. In 1971, however, a Russian study linked cancer to Red No. 2, and consumerists in the U.S. stepped up pressure on the FDA to ban the dye.”

Time Magazine

SavoirFaire's avatar

I doubt that people can actually taste it, but people sometimes say that they “taste” things that are actually differences in qualities like texture. Does red dye interact with frosting differently than other dyes? Is red frosting dryer for some reason? I’ve never had it myself, but I figured I’d join the speculative camp.

DrasticDreamer's avatar

@SavoirFaire No, the red dye doesn’t give the frosting a different consistency than any of the other colors. All of them, if too much color is added, will make the frosting slightly thinner, but it never changed the taste, that I noticed.

SavoirFaire's avatar

@DrasticDreamer In that case, maybe it is purely psychosomatic like @marinelife said. Unless, perhaps, it’s the other ingredients? Could one type of red frosting have given the rest a bad name?

YARNLADY's avatar

I suspect they would not be able to pick out the red frosting from white frosting in a blind test test. I cannot taste it.

Brian1946's avatar

Re: red frosting psychosomatically influencing your sense of taste: Bakery of Blood!

wilma's avatar

I can taste it. Any frosting with a lot of color in it has an off flavor to me. Red, dark blue and black taste especially strong. I can also smell it.
Like @takaboom I prefer white or very pastel frosting.

By the way I have done the blind taste test, because this came up once at a party. I picked out the deeply colored frosting every time.

SavoirFaire's avatar

After sliding around the series of tubes for a bit, I found a few speculations that it might be the iodine in kosher red food dye that makes it taste different. Unfortunately, I don’t understand nearly enough about cooking/food preparation to know if this is a plausible explanation. I’ll have to do a taste test when I can gather enough people together.

(Great question, by the way.)

DrasticDreamer's avatar

@SavoirFaire Thank you! If you ever manage to do that, come back here and update the question to let us all know how it went. :)

jazmina88's avatar

the ingredient with red beetle shells is called carmine.

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