What Color is My Orange (Seriously)?!

Everything you know is a lie.

Not really, but kind of. Let me explain.

Many of the oranges we consume are actually green.

No, it is not an optical illusion or trick.

Depending on where they are grown and how early they are picked, some oranges never actually mature to full orange on their own.

Because of this, in order to present oranges in the actual color orange, they are artificially colored (much like the cast of the Jersey Shore [too outdated?]).

This is allowed by the FDA in two separate ways.

  1. Adding the color Citrus Red No. 2 to the skins.
  2. Exposing the oranges to ethylene gas.

To be honest, the ethylene gas sounds a bit concerning. However, many fruits naturally produce ethylene gas as part of the maturation process.


When fruits like oranges and tomatoes are harvested early to avoid spoiling, subjecting them to ethylene gas speeds up the maturation process.

Even though ethylene gas isn’t linked to harmful side effects (at least not in the small doses encountered through the consumption of produce), this still seems a little underhanded by grocery stores.

According to the FDA:

“Artificially colored oranges received in bulk and sold at a retail establishment are not required to bear a label statement declaring the use of artificial coloring, provided the oranges are displayed to the purchaser with either (1) the labeling of the bulk container plainly in view, or (2) a counter card, sign or other appropriate device bearing prominently and conspicuously the fact that the oranges are artificially colored…”

So next time you go food shopping at your local grocery store, take a closer look at the oranges you are buying to make sure your oranges are naturally orange.


  1. It’s not that much of a problem.

    Ethylene is used more for green tomatoes, as they transport easier.

    And they are easy to pick, green seeds. They will only ever ripen in the vine.

    Vineyard Paul

    • Thanks for your comment!

      Ethylene is not a safety concern, just as you said.

      What I find more concerning is how little people know about the produce they are consuming.

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