Artificial Dyes

There are a lot of colorful foods available to us, and while nature does provide us many beautiful and "healthy" colors of foods, it's the unnatural, artificial food colors/dyes that "grow" in labs that should be of concern to you.

We humans were not designed to eat crude oil, or many of the other synthetic chemicals that are added to foods, so reactions may develop depending on your body's chemistry.

Some people who eat artificial colors/dyes become distracted and have trouble concentrating (like Winnie the Pooh); get  depressed (like Eeyore); get bouncy (like Tigger); become irritable or compulsive (like Rabbit); become fearful (like Piglet); or get upset way too easily (like my son did).

Typically if someone is going to have a reaction it will be: a change in behavior, a change in the ability to focus and learn, or a physical effect such a asthma, hives or headaches. When I put my family on the Feingold program many, many years ago, not only did my son's ADHD become manageable, my frequent headaches and fuzzy-brain stuff disappeared!

By the way, colorings CAN be added to foods without resorting to crude oil; they can be made from natural ingredients, like: Annatto (a bean that gives butter and cheese a yellow color), Grape Juice, Grape SKIN Extract (added to lemonade to make it pink), or Minerals (iron oxides).

Now, when you see synthetic dyes/colors listed on package ingredients, there should be a color along with a number - e.g. FD&C Red No. 3. The term "FD&C" means it's allowed to be used in food, drugs and cosmetics. The "C" stands for certified - but it doesn't necessarily mean the dye is safe however; it just means it has been checked to assure that it does not contain more than the allowed amount of lead, arsenic and mercury (yeah).  "Uncertified" refers to natural colorings such as annatto and grape juice; the FDA doesn't monitor them (yet).

So, if you're going to eat something with synthetic coloring, make sure there is a letter/number combination, otherwise, put it back and move on.

The following "FD&C" dyes ARE allowed in foods, but.....

  • Yellow 5  - Allergists have reported for decades the serious physical effects in some patients, including asthma and hives.  It has also been shown to trigger behavior problems in children. (Lancet, Mar. 9, 1985; Journal of Pediatrics, Nov. 1994)
  • Yellow 6 - Can bring about hives, rhinitis, nasal congestion, bronchoconstriction, anaphylactic reaction, bruising, indigestion, abdominal pain and vomiting. (American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Drugs, 1985)
  • Red 3 - Is partially banned because it was shown to cause cancerous thyroid tumors in animals.  It is prohibited from being used in the wax coating on cheese, but it is allowed to be used in foods and beverages.  This dye can also be used as a pesticide; it's sprayed on manure piles to kill fly eggs. (US Environmental Protection Agency)
  • Red 40 - Is suspected of causing cancerous tumors in test animals. Canada has banned it, the U.S. has not.
  • Blue 1 and Blue 2 - Approved despite controversy surrounding their safety. (Center for Science in the Public Interest)
  • Red 22 - Is not permitted to be used in foods, but it is allowed in drugs and cosmetics, especially lipsticks.  It can also be used as an herbicide, to kill marijuana plants.
  • Green 3 - One of the least used dyes, but increased various tumors in rats.  

My son was sensitive to Reds and Blues.  Eating anything with those colors/dyes in it would trigger a Jekyll/Hyde reaction that was impossible to manage, he became incapable of sitting still long enough to do any kind of seatwork, and his weird tics would come out.  Reactions could take days to balance out, and we were miserable.  He soon learned not to eat anything with colors because he liked feeling "normal"; he learned to read labels and ask questions about ingredients if eating away from home -- pretty cool for a then 10-year old!

The bottom line here is -- read your labels and make informed choices.  If you're eating processed foods and are consistently having "issues", move to a whole food, scratch-cooked or dye-free diet and see if things clear up.  It really is worth the effort!

For your reading pleasure:
  • The Center for Science in the Public Interest has a quite informative PDF that you can download for free, entitled: Food Dyes: A Rainbow of Risks.

  • Healthier Food for Busy People, by Jane Hersey
  • My Feingold files (

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