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Artificial Food Dyes: Why you shouldn’t consume them

Artificial food dye, synthetic food dye, food coloring, FD&C Red No. 40, or Tartrazine (a.k.a. Yellow No. 5)… whatever name it’s listed under, it is all pretty much the same stuff.  I have no problem occasionally digging into yummy homemade treats made with plenty of chocolate, sugar, or whatever else we’re craving But what I NEVER want to “treat” my family to is a dose of chemicals derived from petroleum. You read right. That is what artificial food dye is made from and unfortunately the 15 million pounds of food dye used in the U.S. per year (5 times more than in 1955) is in much more than just colorful icing these days.


Dyes, made from the same petroleum that fuels our vehicles, is turning up in an insane amount of packaged foods including Kraft Macaroni and Cheese, Minute Maid Lemonade, Lunchables, Fruit Roll Ups, Cheetos, and even “Light and Fit” Yoplait Yogurt. And the crazy thing is these companies tell us right there on the ingredient label that artificial color (and sometimes “artificial flavoring”) has been added…but most consumers don’t seem to be fazed by it because they keep buying it.

While I am not very good at politics myself, what I’d like to be good at is educating and influencing all of you to vote with your dollars. I truly believe that if consumers stop purchasing artificially dyed and flavored foods we can make an impact. If enough of us speak up, the big food companies will listen to consumer demand. And I know this for a fact because that’s exactly what’s happened in other countries outside of the U.S (check out #3 below).…we are apparently just behind the curve on this one. But lately, food companies have been listening. If you don’t follow The Foodbabe, you are missing out on what she has been fighting and lobbying for for us. She has been our voice and we are starting to make an impact. But the way we spend our dollars can also help with this change. So don’t stop to fight, because the big corporations are starting to notice.  

Why You Shouldn’t Consume Food Dyes

1. They are made in a lab with chemicals derived from petroleum, a crude oil product, which also happens to be used in gasoline, diesel fuel, asphalt, and tar. “Artificial food dyes are made from petroleum and approved for use by the FDA to enhance the color of processed foods.”

Again, why do you want to eat processed food? Processed food doesn’t provide anything nutritional value to your body. Just empty calories. Your body deserves the right fuel. Eat the right fuel, and you will not eat as much.

2. They’ve been linked to long-term health problems such as cancer. If you’re a child of the ‘80s (like me) do you remember that rumor about red M&Ms causing cancer? Maybe it wasn’t just a rumor after all. “The three most widely used dyes, Red 40, Yellow 5, and Yellow 6, are contaminated with known carcinogens, says CSPI. Another dye, Red 3, has been acknowledged for years by the Food and Drug Administration to be a carcinogen, yet is still in the food supply.” FYI – According to Wikipedia, “A carcinogen is any substance … that is an agent directly involved in causing cancer.” !!! “There’s no good reason NOT to ban Red 3, something then-acting FDA commissioner Mark Novitch tried to do in 1984, saying the dye ‘has clearly been shown to induce cancer’ and was ‘of greatest public health concern.’ … Other dyes, namely Blue 1, Red 40, Yellow 5, and Yellow 6, are known to cause allergic reactions in some people and have shown signs of causing cancer in lab animals. Of course, this isn’t the same thing as leading to cancer in humans, but it argues for limiting intake, especially among children, who are getting the biggest dose of food coloring from a gazillion brightly colored, fun-looking foods.”

I don’t know about you. Cancer is sometime unavoidable. It just appears. Even the healthiest peeps get cancer. But guess what? If I know something might cause cancer, you bet I will try to avoid it. It’s a no brainer here. Why would I take this chance?

3. Did you know that food products containing artificial dye are required to have a warning label in the U.K.?

The label states that the food “may have an adverse effect on activity and attention in children.” So speaking of M&Ms, they aren’t so brightly colored in some countries outside of the U.S. because manufacturers would rather do away with the artificial dye than have to put a warning label on their products.

That is why “M&M” that you will find in natural food stores aren’t bright colored. Because they don’t use artificial food dye. “This is why if you eat a Nutri-Grain strawberry cereal bar in the United States, it will contain Red 40, Yellow 6 and Blue 1. But that same bar in the UK contains only the natural colorings beetroot red, annatto and paprika extract. In fact, the UK branches of Wal-Mart, Kraft, Coca-Cola and Mars have removed artificial colors, sodium benzoate and aspartame from their product lines as a result of consumer demand and government recommendations. In the United States, however, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) continues to allow these toxic ingredients in countless popular foods, including those marketed directly to children.”

Maybe they want us sick. If everyone was healthy, the drug companies would not be making this much money. Who knows? I might be over thinking it. Many Grocery Manufacturers Association members (like Pepsi, Kraft and General Mills) “have switched to natural coloring in their products in the U.K., where warning labels are required, but they’re not doing that here for the most part. That’s because no one’s making them do it.

Why is it so hard to make them change? We have the right to a healthy body and mind without having to break the bank by only buying whole foods that is organic. Not everyone has the time to cook their kids’ snack from scratch so they rely to prepackage foods at time. And buying the same product organic can be very expensive at the end of the day. 

4. Synthetic food dyes have been shown to cause an increase in hyperactivity in children as well as a negative impact on their ability to learn.”Artificial food dyes (in combination with a common preservative) could make even children with no known behavioral problems hyperactive and inattentive.”

When my oldest was in elementary, he was diagnosed with ADD early on. At the time we ate a lot of processed food. We just didn’t know better. He got prescribed drugs to help him out. However, I started to research right away what else we could do. I got multiple cook books for ADD and Autism and started to change his diet. We didn’t change everything such as removing all dairy and gluten but one thing we did was decrease our consumption of prepackaged food. For the past few years it is almost none existent and if we do, it is an organic product. He has been off his meds since middle school and has been doing very well since. “The science shows that kids’ behavior improves when these artificial coloring are removed from their diets and worsens when they’re added to the their diets.” and “While not all children seem to be sensitive to these chemicals, it’s hard to justify their continued use in foods—especially those foods heavily marketed to young children.” “According to scientific studies, these dyes are causing behavioral problems and disrupting children’s attention.”

5. They add absolutely no value to the foods we are eating, but do in-fact pose quite a few serious risks. “Without color additives, colas wouldn’t be brown, margarine wouldn’t be yellow and mint ice cream wouldn’t be green. Color additives are now recognized as an important part of practically all processed foods we eat.” “These dyes have no purpose whatsoever other than to sell junk food.” “These synthetic chemicals do absolutely nothing to improve the nutritional quality or safety of foods, but trigger behavior problems in children and, possibly, cancer in anybody. The Food and Drug Administration should ban dyes, which would force industry to color foods with real food ingredients, not toxic petrochemicals.”

6. They trick your sensesjust like other artificial additives including sweeteners.

In Defense of Food: “One of the problems with the products of food science is that, as Joan Gussow has pointed out, they lie to your body; their artificial colors and flavors and synthetic sweeteners and novel fats confound the senses we rely on to assess new foods and prepare our bodies to deal with them. Foods that lie leave us with little choice but to eat by the numbers, consulting labels rather than our senses.”

7. They are contributing to the obesity epidemic by attracting children (and adults) to highly processed food, which in many cases is being eaten instead of fresh whole foods. “Beyond the behavioral problems and cancer risks, the greatest hazard that dyes pose for children may also be the most obvious: They draw kids away from nutritious foods and toward brightly colored processed products that are high in calories but low in nutrients, such as fruit-flavored drinks and snack foods. Those types of foods are a major force in America’s obesity epidemic.”

Disclosure: My children do occasionally eat foods containing artificial dye because it’s provided to them by teachers, other parents, and friends, but it’s something we try not to spend our own money on anymore.

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