Hidden Dangers of Food Dyes

5 years ago
In my quest to eat more real foods, I’ve become more conscious of how often I see synthetic food dyes in our world.  Halloween candy is already set-up in the stores and it’s a billboard for Red Dye #40. (Synthetic food dyes are listed with a #, like Blue #2.)
In the past couple of years, I keep reading that food dyes have been linked to hyperactivity in children, eczema, ear infections, headaches, asthma, sleep issues and more. As a parent of young children, I don’t need to increase the likely hood of any of those ailments, so I say no to rainbow sprinkles when we are at the ice cream store.

Image: Bob B. Brown via Flickr


However, I'm not going to prevent my kids from enjoying confetti colored birthday cake when they are at friend's parties.  I figure that if I reduce our use by at least 80 percent, then the other 20 percent will have less of an impact.
As an avid label reader, I have started a mental list of where I need to seek an alternative to the conventional options.  You can see that the list extends far beyond the dinner table.
  • Ice Cream
  • Tortilla Chips
  • Kids Medicine. (look for dye free)
  • Play Dough  (we use eco-dough)
  • Toothpaste
  • Yogurts (most organic options use natural coloring, like from beet juice)
  • Husband’s Sports Drinks and Maraschino Cherries
In April 2008, Britain’s Food Standards Agency (FSA) advised the food industry to voluntarily ban the use of six common synthetic food dyes by 2009 (UK food dyes on which the Food Standards Agency has called for a voluntary ban include: Tartrazine, Quinoline Yellow, Sunset Yellow, Carmoisine, Ponceau 4R, and Allura Red). Mars has removed synthetic dyes from M&M’s in the UK, but not in the US. Why? 
It’s a half penny more expensive to switch to natural plant dyes in some cases.  I would be willing to pay a half penny more to avoid potential cancer-causing ingredients.  I would even pay two pennies more to help cover the costs of the families that don’t have the additional money to make a healthier choice.  Education is key and if we can use our consumer dollars to choose products made with natural plant dyes instead of synthetic junk, maybe the big manufacturers will make the change for the better.F
"In Europe, manufacturers need to prove an ingredient is safe beyond a shadow of a doubt for it to be approved for use. In the US. researchers need to prove an ingredient is dangerous beyond a shadow of a doubt for it to be banned."

Additional resources of food dyes:


Die Food Dye! (website)

"Ten Things Everyone Should Know About Artificial Food Coloring" - Sorty Crunchy

What do you think?  What products do you have a hard time finding a good alternative? Mine was Green Monster Mint Hood Ice Cream...sad to see synthetic food dyes in my favorite treat. 


Emily @Random Recycling

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