Human beings are by nature drawn to things with vibrant colors. When we see food with bright colors, a signal tells the brain that this food is going to be absolutely delicious. However, do we consider how these foods get their color? Outside of fruits and veggies, there are no foods that I can think of that have an assortment of natural colors.
Now, many of these foods with vibrant colors are food that our children eat. Foods such as cereals, candies, gelatin, baked goods, pickles, honey, gum, soft drinks, and many others are colored with artificial food dyes to give these vibrant colors. So what’s the problem with food dyes?
Reports are showing that food dyes are having an impact on the health of our children. Red No. 40, Yellow No. 5 and Yellow No. 6 seem to be the major culprits. These dyes are being linked to behavioral issues, asthma, allergies, and cancer. The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) released a 68-page report detailing the potential of artificial food dyes to contribute to hyperactivity in children, increase cancer risk and lead to other health problems. You can read the full PDF document here.
There are parents that began to see a change of behavioral patterns in their children. They would lose focus, become hyperactive, and aggressive. After doing research they began to eliminate foods with dyes from their diet. This elimination process helped to reduce the symptoms of ADHD that had developed. Some children were ultimately able to get off prescription medicine.
Food dyes have also been linked to food allergies. Stephanie Watson and Dr. Judith Marcin give a list of food dyes and the reactions they cause:
Carmine, also referred to as cochineal extract or natural red 4, comes from dried bugs. It has been used in food since the 16th century. It is also found in cosmetics. A variety of reactions have been notedincluding facial swelling, rashes, and wheezing. It’s also suspected to have a role in cases of anaphylactic shock where a cause isn’t easily identified.
You can find natural red 4 dye in:
- burgers and sausages
- fruit yogurt
FD&C yellow #5
FD&C yellow #5, also referred to as tartrazine, is one of two yellow food dyes that has been associated with allergic reactions. People have reported hives and swelling after eating foods containing FD&C yellow #5. Studies many years ago also suggested tartrazine might trigger asthma attacks in children, although recent research hasn’t found the same evidence.
You can find FD&C yellow #5 in foods like:
- canned vegetables
- ice cream
- salad dressings
- hot dogs
The other yellow dye, annatto, comes from the seeds of the achiote tree, which is found in tropical countries. Annatto gives foods a yellow-orange color. There are cases of mild skin reactions from annatto. Some studies have reported cases of severe, anaphylactic reactions in people who were sensitive to this dye.
Annatto is found in:
- snack foods
Along with the allergic reactions are also asthma attacks.
James Huff, an associate at the National Toxicology Program commented, “Some dyes have caused cancers in animals, contain cancer-causing contaminants, or have been inadequately tested for cancer or other problems. Their continued use presents unnecessary risks to humans, especially young children. It’s disappointing that the [U.S. Food and Drug Administration] has not addressed the toxic threat posed by food dyes.”
CSPI mailed a letter to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) last week detailing a request that food dyes be banned in the United States to protect consumers. CSPI charges that the FDA is failing to enforce the law in the following ways:
– “Red 3 and Citrus Red 2 should be banned under the Delaney amendment, because they caused cancer in rats (some uses were banned in 1990), as should Red 40, Yellow 5, and Yellow 6, which are tainted with cancer-causing contaminants.
– Evidence suggests, though does not prove, that Blue 1, Blue 2, Green 3, Red 40 and Yellow 6 cause cancer in animals. There is certainly not “convincing evidence” of safety.
– Dyed foods should be considered adulterated under the law, because the dyes make a food “appear better or of greater value than it is”–typically by masking the absence of fruit, vegetable or other more costly ingredient.”
CSPI charges that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) knows about the health risks imposed by the presence of these dyes, but has not acted to protect consumers.
The constant that I saw in doing research was that the EU has taken steps to educate their people while the U.S. has failed to do so. Just remember when you have your hand over heart and you’re singing America The Beautiful, that your lovely nation is giving food to your children that other nations have banned from feeding to their dogs.