The True Dangers of Food Dyes

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The True Dangers of Food Dyes

If you have been following me for quite some time you know there are a few things that really get my blood boiling. Food dyes ranks high on my list and it really disgusts me to see how much food dyes is in our food supply. I’ve written about How to Rid Food Dyes in my Chicago Parent column and how food dyes is the chemical form of salicylates. The problem is that it is not always so obvious where food dyes are lurking.

Many folks ask, why do food companies use food dyes? The main reason is because we eat with our eyes first. If it is bright, shiny and pretty we have already made up our minds to eat something before we have even tasted it. Many people including kids will not even eat green candy since it has a negative connotation to bitterness.

The FDA has over and over again stated food dyes are safe for consumption even though organizations like has listed numerous studies stating they are indeed harming our children. Food dyes and food additives are not researched or tested before going into our food supply for safety. Scary, isn’t it? But is ok, The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) permits nine different colors to be added to foods, and the agency certifies each batch for “purity and safety.” Well, the amount of dye certified has risen from 12 mg per capita, per day in 1950 to 62 mg/capita/day in 2010. 

Until recently, a study published in Clinical Pediatrics reported the content scores of food dyes in breakfast cereals, candies, baked goods and other foods. Children can consume up to 300mg of food dyes in just one day alone but it can take as little as 35mg for the child to be effected. Target Mini Green Cupcakes had the highest levels of any food studied containing 55.3mg of artificial food dyes per serving. You can read more about how high your “favorite foods contain here

The Center for Science of Public Interest found several more disturbing fact regarding food dyes in our food supply and published a 50 page document discussing how food dyes effect our bodies. For example, have a child with asthma? These dyes can make symptoms worse:



The following dyes used in medicines, foods and cosmetics were recognized by the American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Drugs as being broncho-constrictors as long ago as 1985:

Red No. 2
Red No. 3
Red No. 4
Yellow No. 5
Yellow No. 6
Blue No. 1
Blue No. 2
– Pediatrics. 1985 Oct;76(4):635-43


Let’s not leave out the growing epidemic of Eczema and atopic dermatitis which links many food dyes and preservatives causing inflammation in these young and growing bodies.

How else is food dyes effecting our children’s minds and bodies?

  • ADHD/ADD/Hyperactivity/SPD often coined as “wiggly”
  • Inability to focus/short attention span
  • Inability to fall asleep, resists going to sleep or can’t stay asleep (disrupting dopamine and serotonin levels)
  • Aggressive/defiant behavior (random pushing/hitting, throwing objects)
  • Accident prone, poor coordination, looks disoriented
  • Can alter taste and texture issues
  • Chronic bed-wetting after potty training age
  • and more!


If you notice any of these things (check out within an hour to 24 hours of consuming foods high in food dyes, then your child most likely has a sensitivity to food dyes.

Yet studies show kids in Europe do not have the high rates of ADHD, eczema, Autism as the United States does and many of it is being linked to the food dyes (and food preservatives) we consume for human consumption that the FDA has stated is safe to eat without being studied. AT. ALL

What else does consuming food dyes do to our bodies? It depletes many of our vitamins and minerals from our bodies.  Eating foods with yellow dyes deplete vitamin B6 and you excrete zinc through your urine. While other food dyes deplete magnesium, manganese, iron and other B vitamins, all of which are important for neurological development. And yes food dyes is considered a neurotoxin.

How can you avoid food dyes? Learn to read the food labels. However, food dyes are not obvious in many foods like white and cream

Yellow dyes in cream cheese frosting and a whole host of other chemical additives
Yellow dyes in cream cheese frosting and a whole host of other chemical additives

cheese frostings. Dyes are in crackers and many other chips like Cheetos, Doritos, BBQ chips, pickles and other processed and junkie foods. The kicker of this is that Europe has banned food dyes and will not import any of our foods from big food companies such Kraft, Kellogg’s, General Mills, Nestle, Hersey’s, Conagra  to name JUST a few. These companies will make separate crackers or yellow cake mix minus the yellow food dyes in Europe. Sick and sad, isn’t it?

Is moderation and every now and then ok? Nope not in my book. Our bodies cannot properly rid/detox the dyes.

But food dyes are in soaps, bubble baths, lotions, hand soap, vitamins, you can see, they are everywhere.

I have recently partnered with a marketing company to better understand how you, the parent and the consumer, read and understand food and food dye labels.  This survey will take approximately 5-7 minutes to complete. I would be grateful for your support so we can conduct the study and understand your choices better.

Meanwhile you can make one of my favorite and easy Dye-Free Peppermint Green Tea Frosting.


For more info:

Harvard Mental Health Letter on ADHD and Food Dyes

List of US Foods BANNED in other Countries Containing Dangerous Chemicals

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