Did you know that the FDA allows orange growers to dye oranges that aren’t perfectly orange?
Here’s your answer from the FDA: “Historically it has been the policy of the Food and Drug Administration to allow the artificial coloring the skins of mature oranges. It is a common practice to color the skins of oranges in certain orange growing areas of the country because of climatic or cultural conditions which cause the oranges to mature while still green in color.”
So why would orange growers do this?
Before nights turn cool during the orange harvesting season of January through April, orange skins might not be quite “orange enough” to be visually appealing in the produce aisle. Shoppers
are more likely to purchase brightly colored fruits and veggies because the color is typically equated with dense nutrients and juice concentration. They may even be green, so some growers
will spray their citrus with Citrus Red #2. Citrus Red #2 is a synthetic food dye.
It has been permitted by the US Food and Drug Administration since 1956 to color the skin of oranges. This dye is toxic to rodents at modest levels, caused tumors of the bladder, and possibly other
organs. However, when purchasing your oranges, you also likely won’t know if they’ve been dyed, because there are no current regulations that force retailers to label them as dyed.
You can avoid the dyed oranges by buying fruit that is grown in California or Arizona, where this practice is not allowed.
Florida oranges are the ones likely to be dyed, but unless you are using the rinds – to grate for zest or to make marmalade or candied orange peel — the dye should not pose a problem. If you will be using the rind of oranges, lemons, or other citrus fruits, avoid the dye by buying organic.