Food Coloring – The Scary Truth

Food Coloring – The Scary Truth

Food Coloring: The Scary Truth
by Kerry McLeod

kidwithcandyYour kids are regular Picassos. They love to fingerpaint with bright, bold colors! So, it’s no surprise that while you’re grocery shopping they reach for foods that are also brightly colored.

WARNING: Before you indulge your children (or yourself) by purchasing those neon-colored snacks and drinks (read: blue sports drinks), you might ask yourself: Are these artificially colored foods really harmless?

Our food sleuths have a few colorful words to say about the matter.

Decoding the Fine Print

For decades, study after study has shown a link between food dyes and cancer. Remember the health concerns in the ’70’s when red dye #2 – “amaranth” was thought to be a carcinogen? Suddenly shoppers everywhere were running from all things red! Even the food manufacturers jumped on board. The makers of M&M’s quit producing their red-coated candies for a stretch!

Fun Fact: Turns out the red M&M’s didn’t even contain amaranth! The food maker quit producing them to satifsy worried consumers.

Well, today food manufacturers no longer use amaranth but they do use Red 40, as well as Yellow 5, Blue 1, Blue 2, Green 3, Orange B, Red 3, and Yellow 6. And a lot of it. In fact, they are using these colorful chemicals five times (yes, FIVE TIMES) more than they did 30 years ago!

Better living through chemistry? Not on your life…and not on your children’s life either! New studies have recently linked these food colorings with behavioral disorders in children. That’s right. The rise of ADD and ADHD and other disorders in children may be in part, the result of an artificially colorized diet.

Reality Check

Brightly-colored dyes and spices
So, if some food dyes are thought to be carcinogenic and others can cause behavioral issues in children, then why are the food makers still using these additives in our foods?

The Short Answer: Because they can! Currently, the FDA remains color blind, refusing to order food colorings to be removed from U.S. products.

Meanwhile, across the pond in the UK, they are phasing out these food colorings. Why? Because consumers in the UK have demanded they be removed from their foods. Big food companies like Kraft and Mars have already begun removing these dyes from their UK products. And yet, in the USA, they continue to market these toxins to our children. Color your food sleuths red with anger!

So what’s a wanna-be savvy shopper to do? Sit back while food makers continue to paint our foods by number? Never! We say take control of your grocery store aisles by following these eBrandAid guidelines and ban these harmful additives from your pantry shelves for good!

Shopper-in-Control Guidelines

Learn these eBrandAid guidelines and you’ll keep your kids (and yourself) safe from harmful colorful chemicals:

1. Quick-scan ALL food labels so you can spot these culprits: Yellow 5, Red 40, Blue 1, Blue 2, Green 3, Orange B, Red 3, and Yellow 6.

Note: You expect to find these color enhancers in the usual junk foods like candies, ice cream, cakes, kids drinks, etc. But where you don’t expect to find them is in healthier items like yogurt, cheese, sport drinks, and vitamin water – so reading labels is a must!

2. Remember, manufacturers are sneaky about listing ingredients under unusual names. Learn these aliases for food colorings, so you won’t fall prey to their tricks!

  • Allura Red AC (Red 40)
  • Erythrosine (Red 3)
  • Indigotine (Blue 2)
  • Tartrazine (Yellow 5)3. Be on the lookout for “lakes” listed with a food dye; these are water-insoluable forms of certifiable colors that are more stable than straight dyes.4. Good news! It is possible to find foods that are naturally, colorfully enhanced. These additives offer a safer color boost:
  • Beet juice
  • Annatto (plant-derived)
  • Turmeric (rich in antioxidants!)

Bottom Line: Artificial food dyes are dangerous – END OF STORY. Don’t wait on the FDA to make your foods safer. Now that you’re armed with a little eBrandAid know-how, YOU’RE in control at the grocery store, NOT the food manufacturers!

Kerry McLeod is the founder and Chief Brand Doctor of, a bi-weekly e-newsletter that educates shoppers on how to find the healthiest and best-tasting foods at the local grocery store. McLeod has recently been featured on CBS 46 News, Martha Stewart Living Radio,,, and the Vancouver Sun. She been a contributing writer for,, Atlanta Sports and Fitness and Jezebel magazines. She has also authored the popular diet and nutrition book The Last Diet Book Standing. For more information visit:



Author: VegFamily

VegFamily is a comprehensive resource for raising vegan children, including pregnancy, vegan recipes, expert advice, book reviews, product reviews, message board, and everyday vegan living.

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