Are Artificial Food Dyes Worth The Risk?
We have a serious artificial food dye problem in the United States. Common US foods come with a warning label in European Countries – specifically ones containing Red 40, Yellow 5, and Yellow 6. Read that again to let it really sink in.
Red 40, Yellow 5, and Yellow 6 account for over ninety percent of all the food dyes used. They are the most prevalent, and arguably, the most dangerous of the nine artificial food dyes approved by the FDA. They are FDA approved for use in food products, medicine, and cosmetics. All three contain Benzidine, a known carcinogen, and can cause hypersensitive or allergic reactions.
Why are these dangerous artificial dyes found in over forty percent of food products? Because they make food look more vibrant and appealing to the eye of the consumer. Yes, that is the only “benefit,” of artificial dyes. They do not improve the safety or nutritional value of food whatsoever. If anything, they pose a serious health risk to the US population.
One 2016 study showed these three dyes are consumed on an almost daily basis by ninety-four percent of the US population two and up. No wonder the National Cancer Institute is estimating that just under forty percent of men and women in the United States will be diagnosed with cancer at some point in their life.
Red 40 is the most used artificial dye in the United States. Found in almost thirty percent of food products, this dye has been shown to be a possible cause of tumors in the immune system.
Yellow 5 comes in as the second most prevalent artificial dye used in the United States. It is in over twenty percent of food products. Yellow 5 was shown to cause genotoxic effects in over half of the 2010 Center for Science in The Public Interest studies on artificial food coloring.
Yellow 6 is the third most common artificial dye used in the United States. It is in almost twenty percent of food products. This dye is shown to be a possible cause of adrenal tumors.
With all of these staggering facts, it makes sense why it seems everyone is talking about the dangers of artificial food dyes. Yet with all this talk, it seems the US is doing very little to remove these toxic ingredients from our foods. That is – the ones staying on US soil at least. That’s right. There are many major US brands removing artificial colors from their products to ship overseas. Their products still containing toxic ingredients fill US shelves.
While it may all seem quite overwhelming, there are ways to avoid these dangerous ingredients. Below I’ve listed three of the best ways to ensure you and your family are eating as few artificial dyes as possible.
1. Read every nutrition label before you buy a product. Manufacturers are required by law to include artificial dyes on their ingredients list if they are used in the product. If you find your usual products contain these harmful dyes, try to find an alternative without them.
2. Eat more whole foods. In a 2014 North Carolina study produce was found to be the only product without artificial food coloring. Try sticking to the outer aisles of the grocery store where you will find primarily whole foods. If you can, avoid middle aisles filled with prepackaged processed foods. Prepackaged foods are far more likely to contain artificial coloring.
3. Choose homemade. If the option to make something yourself is available, take it. Try to avoid store-bought foods which are usually filled with ingredients you would never include in your own recipes.
I know these things can seem like daunting tasks in the fast-paced world we’re living in. With marketing ploys on every corner, it can be hard to get in the habit of mindfully choosing the products you buy. But the facts are in and they show it's necessary for us to take these precautions for the safety of ourselves and our families.
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Batada, Ameena, and Michael F. Jacobson. “Prevalence of Artificial Food Colors in Grocery Store Products Marketed to Children.” Clinical Pediatrics, vol. 55, no. 12, 2016, pp. 1113–1119., https://doi.org/10.1177/0009922816651621.
Buckingham, Cheyenne. “What Is Red Dye 40? Foods That Contain It and Its Side Effects.” Edited by Mandy Armitage, GoodRx, GoodRx, 26 July 2002, https://www.goodrx.com/well-being/diet-nutrition/what-is-red-dye-40.
“Cancer Statistics.” National Cancer Institute, National Cancer Institute, 25 Sept. 2020, https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/understanding/statistics.
Kobylewski , Sarah, and Michael F Jacobson. “Toxicology of Food Dyes.” International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 2012, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23026007/.
Kobylewski, Sarah, and Michael F Jacobson. “Food Dyes A Rainbow of Risks.” Center For Science in The Public Interest , June 2010. https://www.cspinet.org/sites/default/files/attachment/food-dyes-rainbow-of-risks.pdf
O'Brien, Robyn. “Which Brands Still Use Artificial Food Colorings?” New Hope Network, 3 Aug. 2016, https://www.newhope.com/news-amp-analysis/which-brands-still-use-artificial-food-colorings.
Seltenrich, Nate. “Food Dyes Linked to Attention and Activity Problems in Children.” EHN, 3 May 2021, https://www.ehn.org/food-dyes-children-health-2652857895/credit.