purple donut

This purple donut is dyed with all-natural potato product. Nemo’s great uncle

There never was a trend that the processed food industry didn’t find some way to twist all out of shape. Start counting the days until a bunch of unnaturally bright red, pink, or purple products can market themselves as “all natural.” Because right now, scientists are working on creating dyes from purple sweet potatoes.

Reader support helps sustain our work. Donate today to keep our climate news free. All donations matched.

NPR reports:

[Food chemist Stephen] Talcott says purple sweet potato pigments are unique because they have “tremendous” color stability. In other words, they have more intense color and a wider color range — from raspberry red to grapelike purple — than other deeply hued fruits or vegetables. They’re also well-suited for food products because they have a neutral flavor — unlike grapes, which have good color but bitter tannins. The sweet potato pigments even boast slight health benefits — they are mildly anti-inflammatory and anti-carcinogenic, Talcott notes.

Grist thanks its sponsors. Become one.

Oy. So basically, we’re going to have to come up with a new word to distinguish between food that’s actually food and food that’s stitched together from a bunch of chemicals that, sure, originally came from plants, but have been isolated, concentrated, and turned into something else altogether? Because even if your sports drink is made from all-natural dyes with all-natural sugars and all-natural electrolytes — it’s still a sugary sports drink that’s been dyed a weird shade of red.