Warning: don’t read this if you’re trying to eat, or have an unusually sensitive constitution. We say this because, although we’re trying to keep this as tasteful as possible, we’re here to discuss a food-dye side effect on the commonplace, natural, and perfectly healthy biological process colloquially known as “pooping.”
To celebrate Halloween, Smithsonian Magazine’s food blog has a fascinating albeit semi-icky 1970s nostalgia article about FrankenBerry, which it calls a “beloved Halloween cereal” that “was once medically found to cause pink poop.”
Indeed, in 1972 a respected pediatric medical journal somberly discussed the problem of “Franken Berry Stool,” and discussed the case of an otherwise-healthy 12-year-old boy who went to the emergency room on suspicion of rectal bleeding, after he went to the bathroom and saw, as the doctor noted, “The stool had no abnormal odor but looked like strawberry ice cream.”
Come to find out the boy had eaten a couple bowls of Franken Berry over the past few days. Back then, the cereal contained a red food dye called amaranth, which is harmless to humans but cannot break down in the body; instead, it comes out when you go to the bathroom and colors its – um – surroundings bright pink.
But that was 40 years ago, and Franken Berry now uses more digestible dyes. But, as Smithsonian notes, there’s still plenty of foods on the market today that result in Technicolor bathroom visits, though people are less concerned when they know it isn’t caused by bleeding. Or, as the writer put it, “Apparently, green stool seems less life-threatening than the reddish hue caused by Franken Berry.”
Back in our college days we discovered, entirely by accident, that if you eat in one sitting too much of a certain children’s rainbow-colored dry breakfast cereal, the next-day results are … well, we can’t say “a bright shade of green that does not belong in nature,” but we will say it doesn’t belong in whatever bits of nature you flush down your toilet bowl.