Five Compelling Reasons To Avoid Artificial Food Colorings

Red Food Coloring

One of my kids has a new crush on Sparkling Ice Naturally Flavored Sparkling Mountain Spring Water — which is basically colorful, sweetened, fizzy water with exciting “fruit” taste combos like Pomegranate Blueberry and Kiwi Strawberry.

In an attempt to help her think before she drinks, I scanned a bottle with my Fooducate app. C+ baby — partially due to its inclusion of artificial food coloring. I did a bit of research and found five reasons we should encourage our kids (and ourselves) to avoid artificial food colorings.

  1. Scientists make artificial food dyes from chemicals derived from petroleum. Yep, the same stuff we put in our cars and is used in asphalt, tar, industrial floor sealers, and head lice shampoos.
  2. Artificial food coloring contains cancer-causing substances. The Center for Science in the Public Interest says the three most used dyes — Red No. 40, Yellow No. 5, and Yellow No. 6 — contain known carcinogens. In 1985, the FDA even acknowledged that Red No. 3 had been shown to induce cancer, but it didn’t ban it. Since then, more than five million pounds of the dye have been poured into foods like Fruit Roll-Ups.
  3. Tartrazine — aka Yellow No. 5 — is toxic. A study in the Journal of Consumer Protection and Food Safety showed that tartrazine reduces the number of cells in our bodies that fight infections and parasites. It has also been shown to reduce the number of cancer-fighting substances in hamster ovaries.
  4. Some studies show artificial food dyes may be linked to hyperactivity, ADHD, and behavioral changes in kids. The FDA has acknowledged artificial food coloring might exacerbate existing behavioral problems in children.
  5. Many countries (not the US) have banned the use of artificial food coloring. Whole Foods Market and Trader Joe’s refuses to sell products containing them. In the US, a Nutri-Grain Strawberry Cereal Bar is colored with Red 40, Yellow 6, and Blue 1. In the UK, the same product uses beetroot, annatto, and paprika to add color naturally.

I’m ignoring the environmental reasons to avoid this product — of which there are many.

To learn more about the dangers of artificial food colorings, read CSPI’s report, “Food Dyes: A Rainbow of Risks”. And sign Fooducate’s petition to American food manufacturers asking them to eliminate artificial food coloring on Change.Org.

What do you think of this information? Do you look for artificial food dyes in your food labels? I certainly will from now on.

Image Credit: Matt Preston via flickr/CC

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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 !
  • William Furr

    Yet more reasons to avoid foods with scary-sounding impenetrable ingredient lists.

    Still, I can’t help myself – it’s a floor wax AND a dessert topping!

    • Mary Gerush

      Oh the good old days of SNL! Thanks for the comment – one of my favorites. And look at that shine!

  • AEM

    Thanks for the info, Mary. One of my boys is hooked on the same drink! I’m not quite sure why WATER needs food coloring.

    • Mary Gerush

      Kids think they are invincible!

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