by Jessica Sanders

Food dye – made from petroleum and found in more than just your tub of pink frosting. Almost

15 million pounds of food dye is used in the US each year and you can find it in everything from your breakfast cereal to lunch meal, from potatoes chips to soft drinks and most colored processed food on the grocery shelf. The list extends far beyond the dinner table to include toothpaste and kids medicine that are laden with synthetic food dyes.

Feed dye to childrenSome of the largest and most influential food corporations, such as Pepsi, Kraft and General Mills consider food dyes to be completely safe.(1) However, many food and health professionals believe there has not been enough long term testing to determine the safety of artificially produced food coloring.  Some have questioned whether artificial food dyes cause hyperactivity in children or worsen their behavior problems. (2)

Thus, as a controversial topic, the best way to determine if food dyes are dangerous for you and your family is to know the facts. Read on…you don’t want to miss this one.

The Many Colors of Food Dye

Food dye seems simple enough – you probably conjure up images of the small, multi-colored box of dye you use to turn white frosting into pink frosting. However, the modern food industry has taken to putting artificial dye in many food products for you. Unfortunately, packaged foods advertised as healthy will sneak additives, preservatives and dyes into their food. Check your labels to be sure you’re not being fooled. Look for:

  • Artificial food dye
  • Red #40 (Allura red)
  • Yellow #5 (Tartrazine)
  • Yellow #6 (Sunset yellow)
  • Red #3 (Carmoisine)
  • Blue #1 (Brilliant blue)
  • Blue #2 (Indigotine)
  • Green #3
  • Orange B
  • Citrus Red 2

While some artificial food dyes are supposedly allowed only in moderation, the FDA mandates that Orange B can only be used in hotdog and sausage casings and Citrus Red 2 is only allowed to be injected into orange peels to make them brighter.  Everything else is fair game. So while the companies adhere to the “regulatory standards,” they become crooks because they willingly place toxic chemicals into many other food products.

Food Dye and Your Body

Though many dyes are still considered safe by the FDA, several have been banned in the past. Red #2, and Yellow #1, #2, #3, and #4 have all been banned for some time now, while Yellow #5 is currently being tested for its safety. So, what can these food dyes do to your body? Food dye has long been linked to a variety of health dangers:

  • Artificial dyes health injuriesADHD: A major point of contention in the food dye debate is whether or not it is a leading cause of childhood ADHD. Because many of these dyes are found in children’s foods – fruit snacks, chocolate cookies, ice cream – health professionals believe they are a contributing factor to restlessness, attention issues and hyperactivity.
  • Cancer: Red #2 was banned in 1976 for carcinogenic properties, (caused intestinal tumors in rats) and has since been replaced with other options such as Red #40 or Red#3. Still, Red #40, Yellow #5 and Yellow #6 are currently considered to be contaminated with known carcinogens, according to the Center for Science in the Public Interest.

The following injuries to your health (3) have also been associated with artificial colors and dyes:

  • Skin irritation
  • Allergic reaction
  • Anxiety
  • Migraines

Be on the Lookout for the Natural Stuff

While artificial dyes can be found in most processed foods, many companies are turning to the natural stuff, especially in the UK. According to (4),

“… Although they turned down a more widespread ban, the European Parliament agreed to place warning labels on all European-produced foods containing one of six artificial colorings.”

While no such ban currently exists in the US, more brands are going natural thanks to consumer demand for healthier options. Natural dyes are made from plant, animal and vegetable extracts, making it a much safer alternative. Here’s a list of natural dye ingredients to look for:

  • Annatto extract: Yellow from a tropical tree
  • Beet powder: Pink/red from beets
  • Carotene: Yellow from carrots
  • Canthaxanthin: Pink color from mushrooms, trout, salmon

The use of artificial food dyes has long been debated in the US food industry and, unfortunately, it still is. Manufacturers should come clean with this natural food coloring if they want to use it. However, when you know what to look for and what the healthier options are, you can be sure to avoid this dangerous and all too common additive.

I know that putting coal in a naughty child’s stocking is a well known Christmas tale, but does that mean we should really be feeding our children coal tar and petrochemicals?

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