Six Ways to Reduce Your Child’s Intake of Carcinogenic Food Coloring

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According to a growing number of scientific studies [pdf], artificial food dyes contain human carcinogens, and are linked to adverse behavior in children. And yet every year, manufacturers release 15 million pounds or more of synthetic dyes into U.S. foods.

Last year, Gina Rau, a working mom who blogs about a variety of food issues and children’s diets, pointed out that Pediatric allergist, Ben Feingold, was “the first prominent doctor to link the relationship between diet and behavioral problems with children — specifically food additives (such as food dyes), among other foods.

“His findings were reinforced in 2007 after research from the University of Southampton found a direct connection between behavior and food dyes.”

The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), a consumer advocacy group, claims the three most widely used dyes – Red 40, Yellow 5, and Yellow 6 — are contaminated with known carcinogens. And another dye, Red 3, has been acknowledged for years by the FDA to be a carcinogen, but is still in the food supply.

CSPI has warned consumers cancer is the biggest concern with artificial food coloring. “In 1985, the acting commissioner of the FDA said that Red 3, one of the lesser-used dyes, has clearly been shown to induce cancer and was of greatest public health concern.”

CSPI claims tests on lab animals of Blue 1, Blue 2, Green 3, Red 40, Yellow 5, and Yellow 6 showed signs of causing cancer. Yellow 5 also caused mutations, an indication of possible carcinogenicity, in six of 11 tests.

According to Seattle PI, each year about 200,000 pounds of Red 3 are used in foods such as Betty Crocker’s Fruit Roll-Ups and ConAgra’s Kid Cuisine frozen meals. Since 1985, more than five million pounds of the dye have been used.

FDA Panel Opposes Warning Labels for Food Dyes

At the end of March, WebMD Health News reported that in an 8-6 vote, an FDA advisory panel rejected recommending new warning labels for the huge number of food products that use artificial food colors.

By an 11-3 vote, the panel agreed with the FDA’s conclusion that there’s no solid proof that food dyes cause or worsen hyperactivity in children, despite plenty of evidence to the contrary.

The panel also voted 13-1 that doctors should not recommend food-dye-free diets to parents of children with ADHD: attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

Dallas News station WFAA TV reported that during the committee hearings, Dr. Jim Stevenson, the lead author of several studies that showed a connection between artificial dyes and increased ADHD symptoms in some children, testified:

“We found mixtures of certain artificial colors together with sodium benzoate preservative in the diet increased the average level of hyperactivity in 3 and 8/9 year old children in the general population.”

WFAA TV noted parents from all over the U.S. also shared stories about their children during the committee hearings. Many talked about how they noticed a remarkable difference in their child’s behavior after they removed foods containing dyes from their diet.

“To give my child an artificial dye would be child abuse!” exclaimed Maureen Lamm, a doctor and mother of three from Kennesaw, Georgia, a suburb of Atlanta. “He suffers that much when he eats foods with certain dyes.”

Lamm offers a website,, to parents to warn them about dye allergies.

In addition to the FDA’s refusal to label artificial food dyes in food, the FDA also recently ignored and deleted One Million signatures in support of mandatory GMO labeling, and rejected a request to ban BPA, a known carcinogen, from cans and other food packaging.

Decade after decade, the Food and Drug Administration has demonstrated that it is nothing more than a corrupt organization acting solely on behalf of corporate food conglomerates and agribusiness.

Nine Permitted Synthetic Food Dyes [source]:

FD&C* Blue No. 1, also known as Brilliant Blue FCF** (blue)
FD&C Blue No. 2, also known as Indigotine (indigo)
FD&C Green No. 3, also known as Fast Green FCF (turquoise)
FD&C Red No. 3, also known as Erythrosine (pink)
FD&C Red No. 40, also known as Allura Red AC (red)
FD&C Yellow No. 5, also known as Tartrazine (yellow)
FD&C Yellow No. 6, also known as Sunset Yellow FCF (orange)
Orange B (red): Only allowed for use in sausage and hot dog casings.
Citrus Red 2 (orange): Only allowed for use in coloring orange peels.

Six Easy Ways To Get The Dye Out
Courtesy of Gina Rau from – Feed Our Families:

* Read labels. It’s truly the best way to know if the color in your blueberry yogurt is really from blueberries or Blue dye.

* Use natural food dyes. Whole Foods typically carries these but you can make your own from fruits, vegetables and spices like coffee, beets, blueberries and turmeric.

* Shop the natural or organic aisles when possible. Many of these manufacturers offer discounts on their products at their website or Facebook page so check those out before you shop, and stock up when they go on sale.

* Have a healthy stash to swap out the bad stuff. We know they’re going to come home with Halloween candy, party treats, and other snacks from school, so be prepared with dye-free alternatives at home or in the car.

* Shop smart at Trader Joes, Whole Foods or your local natural foods market. These stores have a commitment to keep artificial ingredients out of their products so you can bring your kids there and let them choose their treats.

* Cook at home. The closer to raw ingredients you use, the more you can rest assured that you’re avoiding artificial ingredients.

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Spence Cooper
Inquisitive foodie with a professional investigative background and strong belief in the organic farm to table movement. Author of Bad Seeds: A FriendsEAT Guide to GMO's. Buy Now!
Spence Cooper