Green oranges/ ripe green oranges/Photo byGin Lee
Are oranges really dyed to catch your eye?
Recently, I was given bags of green oranges. Yep, green oranges! The outer peels are mostly green, but when sliced, the inside fruit is orange. Despite their outer appearance, they are ripe and juicy. Curiosity got the better of me. I wanted an answer to the question, "Why are these oranges green on the outside?"
During my research, I found that every ripe orange is actually green when it's grown in warmer climates. In fact, only the right weather conditions or artificial processing will turn their peels orange.
Typically, oranges develop chlorophyll as they ripen on trees. Cooler temperatures make the chlorophyll die off, and this will turn the peels orange. However, a sudden rise in temperature can also turn oranges green.
The color transformation that occurs at the processing plants is merely for cosmetic purposes. The fact is, people are prone to believe that if oranges aren't orange in color, they are either ugly or unripened fruit, and ugly, unripened produce usually doesn't sell very well.
So, how do oranges go from green to orange after they've been picked?
When oranges are picked, their green peels will not change color on their own. Some oranges will go through a degreening process, while others will have their peels dyed with Citrus Red #2 to change their outer appearance.
The degreening process takes place in specific areas where the temperatures are kept near 85 degrees and the humidity levels around 90 to 95 percent, and then ethylene gas is released into the rooms to degrade the outer peels of the fruit.
The FDA (Food and Drug Administration) allows ripened, green oranges that aren't intended for food processing to have their outer peels dyed with Citrus Red #2. It's worthy of noting here that the states of California or Arizona have banned Citrus Red #2. Citrus Red #2 is a member of the azobenzene group. Tests have shown a link between the substance and cancer. (wikidata)
Office of Regulatory Affairs and Issued by: Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition Office of Regulatory Affairs (1980) CPG SEC 550.625 oranges - artificial coloring, U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Available at: https://www.fda.gov/regulatory-information/search-fda-guidance-documents/cpg-sec-550625-oranges-artificial-coloring (Accessed: 11 May 2023).
Shailes, / Sarah (2015) Why is my orange green?, Plant Scientist. Available at: https://plantscientist.wordpress.com/2014/12/04/why-is-my-orange-green/ (Accessed: 11 May 2023).
The Fruit Guys (2019) Green oranges?, The FruitGuys. Available at: https://fruitguys.com/2011/04/citrus-greening/#:~:text=The green is due to,sugar than deep Dorange fruit. (Accessed: 11 May 2023).