Food dyes or synthetic artificial food coloring are added to many products to make them appealing to our eyes and taste buds, but they are not as desirable as we might think. When you consider the toxic chemicals they contain, and the hidden health risks, especially to our children, the vibrant colors just might not seem so important. Let me explain some important and beneficial information about food dyes, some facts, what are the health concerns, and some alternative solutions.
Food coloring is any dye, pigment or substance that adds colors to colorless foods, enhances the consistency, correct natural variations of color, or offset color loss due to exposure to light, air, moisture, temperature, and storage conditions to any food, drink, or product. They come in many forms consisting of liquids, powders, gels and pastes. Food coloring is used both in commercial food production and in domestic cooking.
Some interesting Facts about food dye:
1. Americans are now eating 5 times as much food dye as we did in 1955. The food industry has gone crazy with adding color to our foods anything from breakfast cereal to ice creams.
2. Many of the synthetic dyes have dangerous health consequences, especially for children, according to a recent report from the Center for Science in the Public Interest.Research has associated food dyes with problems in children such as:
- hyperactivity as according to the Washington Post
- learning impairment
- irritability and aggressive behavior
- ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder)
3. “Food dyes are added simply for their color to make foods fun. They serve no health purpose whatsoever,” says Michael Jacobson, director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest. “Companies in Europe are managing perfectly well — people get used to a slightly different color, The CSPI has petitioned the FDA to ban the artificial dyes.
4. A U.S. study published in Science found that when children who scored high on a scale measuring hyperactivity consumed a food-dye blend performed worse on tests that measured their ability to recall images than when they used a placebo.
5. 2007 a British study found that children who consumed a mixture of common synthetic dyes displayed hyperactive behavior within 1 hour of consumption. Please also understand that these children had not been diagnosed with ADD or ADHD. In Britain this study prompted manufacturers to find alternative to food dyes. In July of 2010, the European Parliament’s mandated that food and beverages containing food dyes must be labeled as such which went into effect for the entire European Union.
Health Risks of Specific Artificial coloring as according to Less – Toxic Alternatives 10 Edition by Carolyn Gorman:
- Red dye #3 has been named as a possible carcinogen
- Red dye #4 can affect the adrenal glands and bladder
- Yellow dye #10 can be contaminated with the carcinogen – beta-natphyhylomia
- Some dyes can potentially have life threatening sensitivity responses to certain people
- Tartrazine, a yellow dye, has been known to cause reactions from hives to laryngeal edema.
The 3 most widely used culprits:
- Yellow 5
- Yellow 6
- Red 40
These all contain compounds, including benzidine and 4-aminobiphenyl, that research has linked to cancer.
Some alternative solutions to the toxic chemical dyes & helpful tips:
- While natural colorants made from foods like beets are available from pigments of vegetables, minerals, or animals. Some examples of natural and safe food colorings additives include: beta-carotene, grape skin extract, caramel color, saffron
Use products bearing the green-and-white USDA certified organic label, but be aware that foods labeled “made with organic ingredients” may still contain synthetic dyes.
When you see “artificial color”, “artificial color added” or “color added” indicate that they are Natural — when synthetic pigments or dyes are used they must be listed by their names. (eg–Yellow 5 Red 40)
We need to check labels carefully do our research and make sure we are making the best choices possible for our families and their health. Living a green life and eating organically is one of the safest ways we can ensure a healthier life for our children. Many European countries have banned artificial chemical dyes – why don’t we in the US? Why are we letting the FDA tell us that these ingredients are safe when we see all around contrary evidence. It’s time that we take action and write to our senators, the FDA, sign petition to stop the toxic chemical poisoning in our foods.
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