Marion Nestle thinks that consumers don’t need food coloring in their food. In an email exchange with Adam Ozimek, she explains:
MN: Since they are unnecessary and deceptive, I can’t see any reason to do anything to protect their use.
AO: You say that food coloring is “unnecessary and deceptive”. But couldn’t you say the same thing of essentially any garnish or cooking technique designed to make food appear more appealing without physically modifying the flavor?
MN: The issue is artificial. Food garnishes and cooking techniques are usually not.
Megan McArdle argues that the natural versus artificial dichotomy presents a false choice.
Actually “natural” foods would also come with things like toxic fungus and horrible parasites which–I guarantee–are much worse for children and other living things than artificial food coloring. “Natural” is not synonymous with “better for you”. It’s absolutely true that you’re probably less likely to get fat if you eschew highly processed foods in the snack and cereal aisles. But oversimplifying this message to “natural good, artificial bad” quickly turns ridiculous.