In my quest to eat more real foods, I’ve become more conscious of the how often I see synthetic food dyes in our world.  Valentine’s Day 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 colored sprinkles when we are in the grocery store.  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%, then the other 20% 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). Source  Mars has removed synthetic dyes from M&M;’s in the UK, but not yet 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.
Here’s a quote that is rather scary, but true…
“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.”
To learn more about synthetic food dyes, see 10 things everyone should know about artificial food coloring

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 here.)

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This is being shared at Frugally Sustainable ; SortaCrunchy.

11 replies
  1. Rachel says:

    Ugh, I am totally with you here. When I shop with the kids I don't have time for label reading so I go to Trader Joes so I don't have to.

  2. Kelly says:

    yes yes and YES! My brother was hyperactive growing up and not just hyperactive freakishly angry! I mean throw a lego helicopter at your head angry…and he had no reason to be "angry" well anyway we realized through some random study that made it's way out in the 80's that red #40 was a serious ramper-upper…but it's in Doritos, pop-cicles (even ones that AREN"T red) cereal, cheetos like so much.
    but don't you know as soon as my mom started to weed those things out of our house my brother calmed down. My sister who was getting tested for ulcers because her stomach upset her so bad was also miraculously better…I believe it was the lack of red #40 in our house…and to this day stay away from it the best I can…
    props to england for going the extra mile….beet juice. genius!

  3. S. Pinneo says:

    So true! I was chatting with a woman who runs a national organic food company who is personally horrified that artificial dyes are still allowed here. And she's just about the most knowledgeable person I know on the topic.

  4. Christy says:

    Oh, I hate the reality of the quote above. I love the US but would move to Europe if I could just for the food. I guess getting it out of my house the best I can will have to do.

  5. Stacy @ A Delightful Home says:

    I hate thinking about this stuff being in food! It's craziness!

    I try to stay away from synthetic dyes as much as possible. The most difficult thing is having others give "treats" to my kids at church and other places.

  6. folkhaven says:

    Since I was pregnant with my son I started trying to avoid artificial colors. It's quite difficult, and it doesn't need to be. I'm with you, I'd much rather pay a bit more. What gets me is that the dye-free medication costs more, even though it is made with the absence of dye, not a more expensive artificial dye!

  7. Carrie says:

    My daughter picked up some space themed goldfish at Target one day and I agreed for an occasional treat. I did not know they were all colored. To my surprise as I was going to tell her she could only have 2 or 3 I discovered that all of the coloring was natural. I was amazed. No red dye number 40 or whatever. It was paprika, beet juice, etc. Now, I honestly am still not a fan of those type of snacks but as a treat I felt a bit better about it.


    Hi Emily,

    your post is pretty helpful to me,i have a question do you think food colors or synthetic food colors should be used more or people should use natural colors for food coloring.

    Looking forward to your reply

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