Artificial Food Colorings pose a ton of dangers to human health, that I didn’t know much about at all. I was never a big fan of artificial food coloring; they look pretty, yet unnatural, and that’s all I cared. Until I did some research on “is food coloring safe to eat”, and I was in for a major turn around.
This is how it started…
We went to a drugstore to get some diapers, and my son saw M n M’s, and he asked for some; I cringed, but I got him his first bag of “store bought candy”.
I just casually turned around the pack to read the nutritional label, as I do for most foods. And I got a shock, like real one.
Have you ever noticed how many artificial food colorings are there in those colorful dots? All the artificial food colorings on the market, all of them.
I cringed to give him his pack of candy, but I knew not giving it back was not an option, since I bought it for him.
So I made a sneaky mom move, and please don’t judge me for this (although my husband laughed, so you could too!).
I washed his candy! In the desperation of getting rid of some of the colors! (okay, now I’m smiling too).
Washing them, brought the bright colors down to pastel colors, without altering the taste. And, thankfully our little guy couldn’t care less.
But seeing the long list of colors on the pack, put me in a little worry and I started to search the internet for — all there is about artificial food colorings in our diets.
Especially for effects of artificial food colorings on kids behavior; because marketers are specifically targeting kids with their artificial food coloring wand, and that’s very mean of our society!
After all the research, I did this one thing: I changed my thinking of naming artificial food coloring; from food color to food dyes, and this has made me much more conscious about the presence of those artificial dyes in my family’s diet.
So, read on to see what I found…
Why is Artificial Food Coloring so bad for our health?
Artificial food coloring is linked to crankiness, sleep disorder, and restlessness. In other words, it over-stimulates children’s minds which in turn causes their misbehavior. And worse; some food colorings pose a risk of cancer!
A Study was done on 200 kids in Melbourne, where the kids were offered food free of food dyes for 6 weeks and 150 parents reported improvement in their behavior including less irritability, restlessness, and less sleep disturbance.
You guys, 150 out of 200 is a big number, very big.
Here is another study; where a couple saw a major correlation between food dyes and their child’s tantrums. The child used to go from being very happy and excited at one point and shift to “falling in their arms and having major tantrums” for no particular reason.
It took the family a year to determine the culprit of her mood swings — “it was food dyes in her food.” She loved fruit Punch, and that has a lot of artificial food colorings in it.
And, as they shifted to eliminating food dyes from her diet entirely; she wasn’t irritable, slept better; and was a relaxed and easy-going child thereafter.
I would say if you feel like your child has more than usual meltdowns or is overstimulated, and very active or aggressive around the house particularly in the odd hours like evenings, I WOULD LOOK INTO THEIR DIET and look for the presence of artificial food colorings or dyes.
And have you heard this? We in the US don’t pay much attention to food dyes in our foods while Europe does
European Union actually asks manufacturers that foods containing food dyes must be labeled with this warning:
“Consumption may have an adverse effect on activity and attention in children.”
And the irony? They are the same companies that make the same foods in the United States and sometimes don’t even bother to mention the food colorings used in those foods; if it’s not over a certain amount. Forget about a warning.
Why did we start using food dyes in the first place?
We as a society started using food dyes when we started eating more processed food. Because processing of food makes it look boring or off colored.
Most fresh food has naturally bright colors.
Those natural colors make fresh food more tasty to our pallets; hence fruits are tastier than vegetables. Plus, it’s the natural color which has all the good vitamins and minerals.
So, in the frenzy of wanting to make processed and off colored food as pleasing as the natural food; manufacturers started using synthetic or artificial colorings in our food to make it look more appealing. And to camouflage the effects of food processing.
What is Artificial Food Dye made of?
According to NPR.org: “Artificial food dyes are made from petroleum and approved for use by the FDA to enhance the color of processed foods.”
Petroleum? Yep, the same thing that’s going in our cars. It used to be made from coal-tar and now it’s Petroleum (great progress huh?).
Common Foods with Food Dyes
A rule of thumb is — any bright or dark colored processed food has a very high chance of having dyes in it.
There were some obvious ones for kids; like, cake frostings, ice cream, popsicles, boxed dinners like mac n cheese, fruit punch (which we often tend to think as fruit juice), fruit snacks, gummy bears, and roll-ups and even flavored milk and yogurt.
Milk threw me off a lot because I know so many kids who drink flavored milk as white milk doesn’t taste good to them.
Fun Fact: There is a reason Froot Loops is spelled as “Froot” and not “Fruit”, and by now you can guess why!
And then there are foods that you wouldn’t even suspect — there is no need of dyes in them, but have them. Like, chicken broth, light and fit yogurt, pickles, lemonades.
Especially the Birthday cakes and cupcakes; the dark artificial food coloring that taints our children’s tounges are so bad for them. (I feel so angry and frustrated about this)
Basically, anytime you see a processed food very appealing to eyes; turn the package to see how many artificial food colorings does it have!
Related Reading: Why is Ultra Pasteurized Milk bad for your health.
Related Reading: Why I Choose Coconut water Over fruit juice for my kids.
Which food colorings are the worst?
According to CSPI.org: “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”.
And this is so frustrating, why are we still letting manufacturers put these carcinogens in our children’s foods?
This is another good resource from CSPI, for the results from a lab study done on food coloring.
Artificial Food Colorings and their common names.
Hope this list helps you find those hidden food dyes in your food:
Artificial Food Coloring
Common Name on Packaging
Red No. 3
Yellow No. 5
Yellow No. 6
Green No. 3
Blue No. 2
Blue No. 1
So why are they considered safe?
The problem is: They are not considered dangerous. So until they can be proven harmful or dangerous to health, they are “assumed to be safe”.
The other issue is; they’re used in very small quantities. So, as consumers don’t pay much attention to it.
And we consumers forget the fact that THEY ARE CHEMICALS.
Would you put chemicals in your or your child’s body? Like a tiny bit of chemical? No right! They why chemical in this form?
What are the alternatives?
If you want an alternative for artificial food colorings at home, this is a great food dye made from natural foods like vegetable juice & spices.
And, it works just as the artificial food dye. It’s really cool and very affordable. So I would start using these for baking needs.
And, now the bigger issue; foods with artificial coloring on the market that our kids love!
Well, we all just have to be more careful about choosing the packaging for those. There are “healthier versions“, of all the kid’s foods without artificial coloring, including goldfish. You can find them in your grocery store in the “natural foods aisle”.
Not the best, but Annie’s Organic food is a good and very affordable brand for foods that kids love but is wayyy healthier than the conventional ones.
I like Amazon’s prices on the Annie’s Organic Food, but almost all the grocery stores have this brand, so do the big box stores especially Costco.
So the take away: Artificial food colors in our kids and our diets are bad, and we need to be more vigilant about them. Just like we made the manufacturers put “non rBGH hormone milk” out there almost exclusively by us as consumers making a conscious choice. We all need to do this with Artificial Food Colorings too.
Moms just always have to take responsibility for their children’s health, and that’s how it is!
I knew candies have food color in them but I didn’t think of them as “that bad”. BUT NOT ANYMORE! I’ll be way more conscious about artificial food coloring in my family’s diet.