Orange Oranges is an Historic Controversy

Grocery store orange oranges.
Orange oranges.
As a kid many moons ago, I was told there really aren’t any orange oranges.  That is to say, they aren’t naturally orange, but are really green. Is this true? Not entirely,  but it is partially true. For one thing, the temperature and sunlight levels are relevant. The green color present in some ripe fruits is due to chlorophyll. Many oranges do turn orange, at least in part.

Yet, when most of us go to the store, we see oranges that are at least predominantly orange, if not completely so. Oranges, you see are often dyed. Now you may be saying you know that. But did you know there was once controversy over the dying process? Below is a transcription of an edition of the Palm Springs, California Desert Sun newspaper article for 1958…Palm Beach California's Desert Sun newspaper.

The Supreme Court Rules

Washington (UPI) – The Supreme Court today weighed the question whether citrus growers must sell their oranges green.

The government contends a dye used by Texas and Florida growers to color the orange skins orange is poisonous.

But attorneys for Florida citrus growers told the court Monday that their industry will face “economic disaster” if barred from using a limited amount of the dye. They said the public just won’t buy oranges with greenish skin, the natural color of many ripe oranges.

Red 32 dye banned in Florida November 24, 2015.


The Health Education and Welfare Department contended that the dye should be banned completely.

The dye, a coal-tar product called “red-32,” was originally approved by the government as harmless for use in food. After later experiments with animals, the department removed the substance from the approved color list in 1955.

Then Congress passed a special law the following year permitting its use in coloring Florida and Texas oranges until next March 1.

J. Hardin Peterson, Lakeland, Fla., attorney for the Florida Citrus Exchange, contended that the department misinterpreted the word “harmless” as meaning “totally without harm.” He said almost any substance, including salt, could cause harm if a person consumed an enormous amount of it.

Article in the Chicago Tribune of December 16, 1958.
Chicago Tribune December 16, 1958.


He also said the department had rejected a newly developed dye which they claim was 10 to 50 times as safe as red-32. But William W. Goodrich, the department’s assistant general counsel, said claims for the new dye and the safety of red-32 were exaggerated.

The department is appealing a decision of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, directing it to certify as safe batches of red-32 for oranges. The arguments brought out that 63 percent of these fresh citrus fruits shipped from Florida are colored.

Orange Oranges Today

Today grocery store oranges are, in fact, orange. Dying is once again used some of the time. But different dyes are used. One of these if red dye number 2. The reader may find this Food and Drug Administration reference of use: CPG Sec. 550.625 Oranges – Artificial Coloring.

References: ← Back to Food-Health
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One Comment

  • Meg Reply

    I knew oranges were picked green but I thought that they then ripened to orange!

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