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FDA Approved Food Coloring Dyes: What You Are Really Eating

Updated on February 13, 2020
Melis Ann profile image

I'm a mother, environmental scientist & former Covid contact tracer who does research on a variety of health-related topics. Copyright 2021

Artificial dyes are pervasive in candy. Children are especially vulnerable to adverse effects considering how much candy they eat and because of their small size.
Artificial dyes are pervasive in candy. Children are especially vulnerable to adverse effects considering how much candy they eat and because of their small size. | Source

What’s Wrong With Artificial Food Coloring?

I want to teach my kids the truth about food choices. I explain that many of the snacks they see contain artificial dyes which are made from chemicals to make the foods look colorful and appealing.

I didn’t always have this rule against eating food dyes, and I admit we don’t follow it 100% of the time. My most interesting finding through this process has been the reaction of my kids, who, after being taught the facts are asking questions about their own food to make their own choices. It is never too late to implement a change for the good.

Copyright © 2018 Melis Ann

Red dye is commonly used and comes from petroleum.
Red dye is commonly used and comes from petroleum. | Source

What is Artificial Food Coloring?

Artificial food coloring approved in the United States have the following labels FD&C Red 3, FD&C Red 40, FD&C Yellow 5, FD&C Yellow 6, FD&C Blue 1, FD&C Blue 2, and FD&C Green 3. These man-made chemicals are suspected of being toxic, poisonous and dangerous, especially to children. Artificial food dyes come from highly toxic sources, the majority of them derived from petroleum (petrochemicals and coal tar) and some are contaminated with compounds such as benzidine and 4-aminobiphenyl, known to be human carcinogens.


What’s Been Done? FDA and Other Countries on Food Dye

We can’t count on the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to change. They have known the potential dangers of using synthetic dyes in food since they published a report in 1976. They have also refused to eliminate these poisons from our food despite the 2008 petition submitted by The Center for Science in the Public Interest. As the debate rages on, I am not going to wait around for a concensus.

Kudos to countries in Europe that took a stand against artificial food dyes. Even though the European Food Safety Authority did not feel the need to force a change, the European Parliament decided that even without concrete proof, the risk was considerable enough to warrant warning labels that chemical dyes may cause reactions in children. Many European food manufacturers opted to reformulate their products instead of having to use warning labels. Nutri-Grain bars are now available to European consumers without the artificial color additives. However, Nutri-Grain bars sold in the U.S. still contain those dangerous substances. A McDonald's strawberry sundae in Europe is colored with actual strawberries whereas the American version depends on Red #40 for it's colorful appearance.

It is up to consumers, especially parents, to make these choices for ourselves and our families. Since the FDA has not taken action against approving these kinds of chemicals for use in our food, it’s left to economics to sort it out. If we all start buying the better choices, which do exist out there, the companies that still mix poison into our foods will have to take a second look at why their products aren’t selling.


Artificial dyes are linked to cancer, ADHD, allergies and other symptoms.
Artificial dyes are linked to cancer, ADHD, allergies and other symptoms. | Source

What’s the Harm in Eating Artificial Coloring?

Studies have linked ingestion of artificial food coloring to numerous diseases and disorders including multipe kinds of cancer, mutations, allergies, male sterility, and aggravation of ADHD symptoms. There is also a link to causing hyperactivity in children that are not diagnosed with ADD or ADHD. Other recent studies link exposure to artificial food dyes to behavioral problems and lower academic performance.

Public Health Research Group states that children’s exposure to food dyes has tripled since the mid 1980’s. Their study estimates that by the time a child is 12 years old, they may have already eaten 10 pounds of artificial food coloring. There is no way to compare our childhood or past generations exposure to what is occurring today. It’s unprecidented.

Children are the most vulnerable group due to their smaller size and rapid development as well as the fact that they are eating more of these foods than adults. Think colorful cereals, candies, and popular snacks including yogurt, boxed macaroni and cheese and even pickles! You will be surprised at just how many products contain these dyes once you start looking at the labels.

You may also be surprised to find out about dyes in vitamins and medicine.


Do-it-yourself: Where To Buy Natural and Organic Food Dye

What Are the Natural Choices for Food Coloring?

Today there are many foods that we can choose that contain naturally derived food dyes and many products that are produced without them altogether.

Some examples of natural food dyes include annatto, caramel coloring (made from caramelized sugar), betanin (beet extract), saffron, paprika, and elderberry.


Buying organic foods is the easiest way to avoid artificial ingredients of any kind.
Buying organic foods is the easiest way to avoid artificial ingredients of any kind. | Source

Where Can I Buy Foods that Contain Natural or No Dyes?

Buying organic foods labeled USDA Organic will ensure you avoid anything artificial in your food. Note that foods (without the USDA Organic label) can still be labeled to “contain organic ingredients” and may still contain ingredients such as artificial food coloring, so be wary.

Organic foods aren’t the only way to go. There are many grocery stores with their own health conscious brands such as Whole Foods Market 365 brand and Wegman’s Food You Feel Good About brand. You know when you’re buying these, you are buying a product free of artificial ingredients at the same time getting a great value.


More Resources on Effects of Artificial Food Coloring

My Disclaimer
Note that this website portrays my opinion. I want to help others consider a new or different view. Any action taken based on these opinions is the responsibility of the reader.

Copyright © 2018 Melis Ann
Original content written by Melis Ann published only on HubPages at the following web address: http://melisann.hubpages.com/hub/FDA-Approved-Food-Coloring-What-You-Are-Really-Eating


Better alternatives exists for many of the mainstream artificially colored products.
Better alternatives exists for many of the mainstream artificially colored products. | Source

No Poison, No Downside! Avoid Artificial Food Coloring

You can call me an alarmist, you can tell me the studies aren’t conclusive, you can tell me that you or your parents ate foods that were artificially colored and that nothing happened. But it's not going to change my opinion that feeding children a by-product of petroleum is anywhere near beneficial to them. It's logical to me that our bodies will function better without the overload of toxins. Minimizing artificial food dyes can only do us good.

Not only is the risk of eating artificial colors significant enough to me, but easy enough to avoid. Why not make that change? There’s no downside.

As a society, we really need to force the change from the bottom up so that further change can be enabled. Consumers drive the market and we don't need to wait for government to tell us what's safe or unsafe.



© 2012 Melis Ann

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