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Color Me Red: New Research into Algae-based Food Dyes

Algae’s unique characteristics strike again: Andersen Ranberg has been awarded a grant to incite algae to produce an orange food dye. More specifically, Ranberg, who will be conducting the research over the next several years at the University of California Berkeley, is studying whether the introduction of genes can produce a form of carotene and, if successful, whether that form of carotene production would be feasible and economical on a large scale.

Synthetic food dyes–the standard dyes in products ranging from Peeps marshmallow chicks to boxed mac & cheese–have long been controversial. Not surprisingly, the demand for alternatives is strong.

Enter Ranberg’s research. His work has the potential to create a product to replace certain colors of synthetic food dyes, a key step towards moving away from synthetic dyes. Notably, his upcoming research follows in the footsteps of similar exciting work by Matrix Genetics. As reported by the Huffington Post last year, Matrix manipulates genes in algae to produce blue dyes and sees potential to translate their work to other shades as well.

This could result in some key breakthroughs in a controversial field.

For more about Ranberg’s work, find the full article in Modern Farmer.

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