Artificial Dyes: Decorative or Dangerous

Artificial Dyes: Decorative or Dangerous

By Ann Marie DeGregoria, Balanced 4 Life Nutrition,

Colorful foods are not only revered by children today, but also by adults, that were once children themselves… How could it not be attractive to us all, as our tables have always been decorated with colorful foods, representing childhood nostalgia – parties, celebrations, & holidays. Even today’s every day events are deemed “special,” allowing for an array of colorful foods for our children to choose from – and not just play-dates and birthday parties, but artificial colors are also in places such as school lunches, hospital food and even the lollipops given out at doctor offices.

But have you ever stopped to think what actually makes up these artificial colors that adorn our foods? If you stop & look, you may not be so cavalier about it any longer… And then, and only then, will our brains begin to dislodge this long ingrained, pre-programmed mentality of desiring more… buying more… eating more in our culture – all of which is induced by the sight of colors (and chemical dependency of sugar), and instead make thoughtful decisions about what goes into our children’s bodies.

Why & What are Artificial Dyes?  Artificial Dyes (aka-food coloring) are used to “make foods fun” BUT IS IT FUN WHEN:

– Our children are literally eating crude oil – petrochemicals – petroleum based food coloring, containing “neurotoxic chemicals” and known cancer-causing carcinogens!?
– Food coloring has been shown to cause hyperactivity, ADD, ADHD, and has a negative impact on a child’s ability to learn, as well as skin rashes, migraines, asthma, and tumors!? (According to the many different studies and references listed below).
– The coloring literally DYES our organs red, yellow & blue, further taxing the organs!
– Your children not only receive absolutely no nutritional value, but instead contribute to a steady intake of toxins, daily?!

While artificial dyes add character, definition and attraction to foods, they are being consumed at an alarming rate! “Each year manufacturers pour about 15 million pounds of eight synthetic dyes into our foods,” according to CSPI executive director Michael F. Jacobson, co-author of the 58-page report, “Food Dyes: A Rainbow of Risks. Additionally, according to Purdue Researchers (referenced in this report), within the past 50 years, the intake has increased five-fold.  Today there is an estimated daily intake of 100mg per day, and possibly up to 200 mg per day. No surprise when you think about all the “foods” they hide in, but very upsetting nonetheless.

Where are Artificial Dyes hiding? Artificial dyes are not just in the “foods” that you might expect, such as candy, ice pops, cake frosting, and Jello… BUT they also show up in soft drinks, yogurt, gum, boxed food, cereals, chips, pudding, pickles, canned food, fish, meat, popcorn, crackers, cookies, peels of oranges, soups, cosmetics, shampoo, toothpaste, over the counter medications, prescription medications, and even vitamins (sadly)! Strawberry flavor, for instance, many not even have strawberries as an ingredient at all! It’s a deceptive practice that we all can easily fall victim to because we trust the brand, we trust the marketing, we trust the government – so we don’t investigate any further and we buy! Their marketing tactics work!

History: Food coloring became popular in the early 1900s with synthetic colors “derived from coal-tar (a waste product of coal gas & coke)” according to Food Matters. This replaced toxic metal salts such as copper, lead and arsenic. Naturally, the coal-tar option was thought to be a better alternative to toxic metals… and in contrast, it was. But coal-tar derivatives have also proved to be unsafe.

The amount of synthesized artificial dyes was distilled down, starting at 695, then 80, next 15, and today we are left with 7: Blue #1, Blue #2, Green #3, Red #3, Red #40, Yellow #5 & Yellow #6.

11 Snippets from studies and/or research that you should see:

1) Back in 1985, the acting commissioner of the FDA said that Red 3, one of the lesser-used dyes, “has clearly been shown to induce cancer” and was “of greatest public health concern.”

2) “Tests on lab animals of Blue 1, Blue 2, Green 3, Red 40, Yellow 5, and Yellow 6 showed signs of causing cancer or suffered from serious flaws, said the consumer group. Yellow 5 also caused mutations, an indication of possible carcinogenicity, in six of 11 tests.”

3) “In addition, according to the report, FDA tests show that the three most-widely used dyes, Red 40, Yellow 5, and Yellow 6, are tainted with low levels of cancer-causing compounds, including benzidine and 4-aminobiphenyl in Yellow 5. However, the levels actually could be far higher, because in the 1990s the FDA and Health Canada found a hundred times as much benzidine in a bound form that is released in the colon, but not detected in the routine tests of purity conducted by the FDA.”

4) CSPI charges that the FDA is not enforcing the law in several regards:
– Red 3 and Citrus Red 2 should be banned under the Delaney amendment, because they caused cancer in rats (some uses were banned in 1990), as should Red 40, Yellow 5, and Yellow 6, which are tainted with cancer-causing contaminants.
– Evidence suggests, though does not prove, that Blue 1, Blue 2, Green 3, Red 40, & Yellow 6 cause cancer in animals. There certainly is not “convincing evidence” of safety.
– Dyed foods should be considered adulterated under the law, because the dyes make a food “appear better or of greater value than it is”—typically by masking the absence of fruit, vegetable, or other more costly ingredient.

Source for 1-4 from Center for Science in the Public Interest

5) Food Babe: Jello uses Blue #1 in several of their flavors.  This is one of the worst colors out there because it has been shown to cross the blood-brain barrier and “in 2003, the FDA asked doctors to stop [adding Blue 1 to enteral feedings] since patients were dying, not from their disease, but from the Blue number 1, which apparently caused refractory hypotension and metabolic acidosis”.  But – the FDA still allows this “Fun” ingredient in Jello.

6) According to the 2004 Southampton University “increased hyperactivity rates in all young children, not just those who were allergic to food colorings or who had ADHD”

7) A Purdue University study “A child who eats 2 cups of Kraft Macaroni & Cheese, a small bag of Skittles, and 8 ounces of Crush Orange will consume 102 milligrams of artificial dye. Behavioral tests found as little as 30 mg can cause adverse reactions.”

8) Food Matters (& Natural News) reports: Red#2 showed “caused breast and intestinal tumors in rats and was toxic to gonads and embryos” (See Summary of Studies on Food Dyes, #10).

9) Forbes article notes: Yellow#5 linked to hyperactivity, anxiety, migraines and cancer – banned in Europe.

10) Summary of previous studies on food dye

Also noted here: “In addition, numerous studies have found that mixtures of dyes cause hyperactivity and other behavioral impairments in children.”

“Tests should be done on both sexes of two rodent species, use sufficient numbers of animals, include in utero exposure, last at least two years after birth, and use maximum-tolerated dosages. Ideally, tests would be conducted by independent labs, but most were conducted by industry.”

11) Parents comments about their children’s sensitivity to food dyes

Well, Why Not America? Why are we left out? The irony is that since 2010, the European Union has required food manufacturers to place a warning label on all products with artificial food dyes declaring that they “may have an adverse effect on activity and attention in children,” and others have been banned all together according to the Boston Globe. Well, why not America? Why are we left out?

The Boston Globe also reported that a US Food and Drug Administration advisory committee, voted against adding warning labels in 2011. “While the FDA does not reject the proposition that the remaining approved (7) artificial colors may carry adverse health effects, its representatives generally agree, stating the further evidence is needed before another ban is enacted”.

Many lobbyists are at work to ensure their interests are protected – that said, if the FDA ruled to remove these artificial colors, it could “put companies out of business.” Artificial colors, made from petro-chemicals, are a cheap alternative to the truly natural alternatives.

Alternatives:  In an article from Food Matters, Neev Arnell reminds us that Ancient romans used saffron, paprika, turmeric, beet extract, and petals. CSPI suggests “many natural colorings are available to replace dyes. Beet juice, beta-carotene, blueberry juice concentrate, carrot juice, grape skin extract, paprika, purple sweet potato or corn, red cabbage, and turmeric are some of the substances that provide a vivid spectrum of colors. (However, CSPI warns that “natural” does not always mean safe. Carmine and cochineal—colorings obtained from a bright red insect—can cause rare, but severe, anaphylactic reactions. Annatto, too, can cause allergic reactions.”) (Annatto color (achiote seeds) would replace yellow 5).

As for me, I made a frosting for my daughter using the juice from defrosted frozen organic raspberries to color it pink. It worked! Then I bought colored sprinkles made from actual food! (fascinating, isn’t it!). It was pricey, but it satisfied her desire to have color, and mine regarding safety! A true win-win.

Bottom line:  You do not need anyone to tell you that eating crude oil is safe, or unsafe – we KNOW that ingesting petroleum, coal tar, petro-chemicals are dangerous. We do not need to look to any group, organization or company to tell us something that we inherently know to be true! Therefore, change must come from the parents. And voting must come from our wallets. And that’s how this movement will gain the momentum it needs for the change that our children deserve.

“Further evidence” is NOT needed. Independent, rational, clear, common sense decision making is what is needed. Let’s stand up, take charge and make a change together.



Boston Globe: 

Food Babe:

Food matters:


Perdue study:

University of Southampton – “ Southampton Six” 2007

Center for Science in the Public Interest (68 Page study)

Parents comments about their children’s sensitivity to food dyes:

Why Dye:

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