Food Safety

Published on October 29th, 2013 | by Mary Gerush


A Scary Halloween Tale: Death By Artificial Food Coloring

Scary PumpkinI wrote a post about the dangers of artificial food coloring about 6 months ago. Having known little about health concerns associated with artificial dyes, I quickly learned that Red No. 40, Yellow No. 5, and Yellow No. 6 — the three most used artificial food colorings — contain known carcinogens. I also learned artificial food dyes contribute to ADHD and hyperactivity in children. (October is ADHD Awareness Month by the way.)

Other countries have banned the use of artificial food colorings the U.S. still allows. As an example, a recent Huffington Post article shared: “Mars is one of many companies that use natural colorings in products they market in Europe but artificial dyes to color the same products in the United States. M&M’s candies contain mostly natural dyes in Europe, but feature Red 40, Yellow 5 and 6, and Blue 1 and 2 in the United States version.”

Hmmm. Nonsensical to say the least.

To influence change, I have some suggestions:

  • First, digest this infographic titled “Colors to Die For.” It summarizes the key health concerns linked to various artificial food colorings. You need to know the risks.
  • Second, sign Michael F. Jacobsen’s petition on which seeks to influence Mars to begin using only natural food colorings on M&M’s candies in the U.S. (Mr. Jacobsen is Executive Director for Center for Science in the Public Interest and writer of the Huff Post article mentioned above.)
  • Third, read your nutrition labels and avoid, avoid, avoid artificial food colorings. Screen your kids’ pumpkin-head buckets and toss those M&M’s. Halloween is sufficiently scary without the added risk of cancer and ADHD.
  • Finally, when your kids empty their buckets across the living room floor, do a quick analysis. How many pieces or packs of candy did they acquire? And how many of them contain artificial food colorings? Come back to the comments and let us know what you find! Please, please, please! I’m so curious.

With knowledge comes power. Let’s take these small steps to make a potentially huge difference.

Artificial Food Coloring: Colors to Die For


Infographic Credit: Special-Education-Degree.Net and Nowsourcing via

Image Credit: Shutterstock

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About the Author

Hi all! I'm Mary Gerush - a recovering corporate worker bee turned good-farm-real-food advocate and writer who wants to help people understand what they're eating. I tend a tiny urban farm in Dallas, TX, and hope to scale up one day soon. Omnivore through-and-through, there's not much I love to eat more than a butter-basted grass fed steak fresh from a searing hot cast iron skillet. Follow me on , , and !

4 Responses to A Scary Halloween Tale: Death By Artificial Food Coloring

  1. Elizabeth says:

    We don’t go trick or treating. We don’t believe dressing up and basically demanding candy from people is for us. We don’t want the candy in our house. We do hand out small cups of locally produced apple cider and homemade cookies-so we don’t perpetuate the cycle of sugar and chemical laden candy but my kids get to be included in the event. I know you were looking for a candy report but that’s just my take on the whole thing :)

  2. Pingback: Spice Bistro Blog » Blog Archive » Sharing healthy recipes: Roasted Turkey Half Breast from Nosh My Way

  3. Pingback: Eat Drink Better | Healthy recipes, good food: sustainable eats for a healthy lifestyle!

  4. Mary Gerush says:

    Thank you Elizabeth for your perspective. It’s great that your kids can participate in the festivities while staying true to your family’s values. And there ain’t nothing wrong with homemade cookies! Appreciate your comment.

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