12 things everybody ought to know about artificial food coloring, a guestpost by rebecca from die, food dye!

Today I am so honored and excited to introduce everyone to a lovely and talented guest blogger:  Rebecca from Die, Food Dye! has so graciously written up this super helpful, informative list about food dyes and additives, providing us all with info that is so needed to know.  And just in time for the holidays, she’s suggested some places where dye-free gifts may be purchased. 

So please give a warm, happyhippierose welcome to Rebecca and today’s post:

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12 Things Everybody Ought To Know About Artificial Food Coloring

Food coloring tested on animals has shown some scary results, and yet the FDA continues to approve their use in foods, drinks, medications, and personal care products.  It should be the other way around – instead of approving chemicals until they are proven unsafe, the FDA should protect our food system from additives until these chemicals are proven safe.

Hind sight is 20/20 for sure – Since we discovered our daughter’s food coloring sensitivity (and mine),  I’ve learned so much about food additives and the “Big Food” industry.  Their bottom line seems to be in direct conflict with Americans’ health, especially the most vulnerable among us.  And they’re using us as their guinea pigs.

Next time you go grocery shopping, bring your values with you, and think about this –

  • Artificial food coloring used to be made from coal tar;  Now it’s made of petroleum, propylene glycol (anti-freeze), carcinogenic contaminants such as benzene, and parabens.
  • Food coloring has been linked to mood swings, headaches, rashes, irritable bowel syndrome, asthma, ADD/ADHD, anxiety, bed wetting, sleep disturbances, aggression, eczema, cradle cap, ear infections, chromosomal damage, diabetes, obesity, and cancers.  Some scientists believe it has implications in fertility, Parkinson’s disease, and Alzheimer’s disease.  If you’re a parent, or trying to conceive, avoid food dyes.
  • Not everyone is affected by synthetic food coloring, and not all dyes affect people the same way.  For instance, some people are allergic to red dyes, but blue dyes do not bother them.  Some have a very different reaction to yellows than to reds.  Also, varying combinations of dyes have differing affects on the same person.
  • The affects of food coloring can start minutes or hours after ingestion, and can last for 2-3 days.
  • Petroleum food dyes are found in sports drinks, coffee creamer, marshmallows, canned vegetables, canned fruits, maraschino cherries, spice mixes, toothpaste, mouthwash, jellies, chips, crackers, juice, fruit chewy snacks, cereal snack bars, pastries like Pop Tarts and doughnuts, soft drinks, pudding & sugar-free pudding, gum, condiments, ice cream, yogurt, hot chocolate mix, sausages, farmed fish, pickles, breads, sauces, vitamins, medications, candy, cereals, gelatin, cosmetics, and some crafting kits.  You can check ingredients in cosmetics and personal care items here: http://www.ewg.org/skindeep.
  • In the US, synthetic food dyes must be individually listed by name on food labels, and will appear as a color name followed by a number.  Examples are Red 40, Yellow 5, Yellow 6, Green 3, Blue 1, and Blue 2.  These may be listed in other countries with an “E” followed by a series of numbers.
  • Red and yellow dyes are used in pet foods such as cat treats, chew hides, sausages, “cookies”, “smoothies”, and gourmet pet “candies”.  These do not add any nutritive value to Fluffy’s and Fifi’s diets, and may be causing their hot spots, rashes, paw-biting, vomiting, fatigue, reproductive problems, and loss of appetite.
  • Be aware during special celebrations…Synthetic food coloring is added to some beers (not just on St. Paddy’s day!), liquors in brightly colored cocktails, cake, pie crusts, ice cream, popcicles, baking supplies, candy, chocolates, cookies, sprinkles, chips, lemonade, powdered drink mixes, juices, tea, mashed potatoes, stuffing mix, temporary tattoos, face paints, and spray tans
  • You can make your own natural food coloring.  Some natural sources of dyes are fruits and vegetables, annatto, carmine, beet juice, elderberry juice, chlorophyll, paprika, turmeric, red cabbage, saffron, and hibiscus flowers.  Some people have allergic reactions to annatto and carmine, so use caution when adding them to your diet.
  • Other countries either use natural food colorings, or place a warning about hyperactivity on the front of synthetically-dyed product labels.  In fact, some large American companies already sell dye-free versions of popular products in other countries.
  • You can order naturally-colored holiday candies such as candy canes, caramels, chocolate assortments, and lollipops at www.NaturalCandyStore.com and www.IndieCandy.com.  These two retailers are having daily holiday specials right now, are active on Twitter and Facebook, and can usually ship to the US by the holiday if you order by this weekend (check their sites for specifics).  You can also find plenty of dye-free seasonal goodies at Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s.

I envision a day when healthy foods will be the “norm”, and cheaper than processed “food.”  A small shift in consumer preference is enough to make big food manufacturers take notice.  Send tweets to manufacturers asking them when they’ll ditch the dyes.  Share this information with friends, doctors, parents, grandparents, teachers, restauranteurs, school officials, store owners, and lawmakers.  Vote with your dollars…and let your voice be heard!

For more information, check out studies referenced by the Feingold Association  (www.feingold.org) and the Center For Science In The Public Interest (www.cspinet.org).  For help adjusting to life without food coloring, visit my blog at www.DieFoodDye.com.  Follow @DieFoodDye on Twitter, and interact with other dye-sensitive folks on the DFD Facebook fan page.

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Thank you so much, Rebecca!!  There is always so much to learn, it’s great to get these applicable tips to help sort out the action plan.  It’s easy to know about wanting to do something, but hard to know where and how to start.   Now, I feel so motivated to keep fighting the good fight against dye.  

Do you react to food dye? How? Leave me a comment to discuss! I personally have a strong reaction to artificial dyes, Red 40 being the worst of the worst.  This is an issue that gets me so heated up, so quick! 

Please, check out a couple other great ones from Rebecca’s blog… 

As always, thanks for reading!  I’ll be back tomorrow with some super easy DIY crafts/decor ideas.  xoxo, hhr

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14 responses

  1. I’ve honestly never really taken much thought about artificial food coloring. I wonder, does it serve a purpose in their eyes besides to make it colorful? Does it carry some way of making the product have a longer shelf life?

    Anyway, very interesting.

  2. Thanks Rose for your support with this subject! I heart your blog. 🙂
    To Elizabeth – Food coloring adds no nutritive or preservative value to products. Manufacturers, however, do know the importance of how color affects our perception of freshness and nutrition. Some examples would be red dye injected into supermarket beef to cover its gray color, and red-dyed feed given to farmed salmon to make their inner flesh appear fresher. They know what they’re doing, at our expense, and they won’t stop until our government pressures them to do so. Chemicals are cheaper than natural pigments.

  3. Rebecca, I just went through my spam filter and found a bunch of comments awaiting approval; I’m not sure if some are spam or not, for any real comments I may have let sit in there – I’m so sorry!

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