These days it’s ordinary to cool off with a magenta popsicle or quench thirst with a neon green sports drink. Vibrantly colored foods have become the norm, but studies show that popular food dyes carry profound risks. The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) recently published a comprehensive report called “Food Dyes: A Rainbow of Risks” (pdf) which details the inherent risks of nine different dyes widely used in common foods.

CSPI-food-dye.jpgThe report reveals that common food dyes pose risks of cancer, hyperactivity in children, and allergies.

The food industry dumps over 15 million pounds of the dyes studied into the food supply each year.  Three of the dyes carry known carcinogens, and 4 can cause serious allergic reactions in some consumers.  New studies show that seven of them contributed to cancer in lab animals, including brain and testicular tumors, colon cancer, and mutations.

“These synthetic chemicals do absolutely nothing to improve the nutritional quality or safety of foods, but trigger behavior problems in children and, possibly, cancer in anybody,” said CSPI executive director Michael F. Jacobson.

James Huff, an associate at the National Toxicology Program commented, “Some dyes have caused cancers in animals, contain cancer-causing contaminants, or have been inadequately tested for cancer or other problems. Their continued use presents unnecessary risks to humans, especially young children. It’s disappointing that the [U.S. Food and Drug Administration] has not addressed the toxic threat posed by food dyes.”

CSPI mailed a letter to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) last week detailing a request that food dyes be banned in the United States to protect consumers.  CSPI charges that the FDA is failing to enforce the law in the following ways:

– “Red 3 and Citrus Red 2 should be banned under the Delaney amendment, because they caused cancer in rats (some uses were banned in 1990), as should Red 40, Yellow 5, and Yellow 6, which are tainted with cancer-causing contaminants.

– Evidence suggests, though does not prove, that Blue 1, Blue 2, Green 3, Red 40 and Yellow 6 cause cancer in animals. There is certainly not “convincing evidence” of safety.

– Dyed foods should be considered adulterated under the law, because the dyes make a food “appear better or of greater value than it is”–typically by masking the absence of fruit, vegetable or other more costly ingredient.”

CSPI charges that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) knows about the health risks imposed by the presence of these dyes, but has not acted to protect consumers.

dyed-candy-featured.jpgDespite the risks, Red 3 remains in our food supply today, with over 200,000 pounds poured into processed foods each year, including ConAgra’s Kid Cuisine frozen meals and Betty Crocker’s Fruit Roll-Ups.

Experts admit that in order to conclusively state the extent of harm imposed by these dyes more comprehensive testing should take place. Many consumer advocacy groups are calling on the FDA to carry out its own tests on the dyes if the results of these other tests are not conclusive.

British lawmakers reacted to the findings of these studies and already forced companies to phase out the harmful dyes served in Britain before January of this year. Additionally, the European Union passed a law that goes into effect on July 20 requiring companies to post a notice on each dyed product sold in Europe. The notice states, “May have an adverse effect on activity and attention in children.”

This law is expected to encourage the companies still using these dyes to completely eliminate them inside all of Europe over the next year.

Color is used to attract consumers, and the good news is that synthetic, petroleum-based dyes are not irreplaceable. There are a lot of natural dyes that can be used to brighten food. Blueberry juice concentrate, carrot juice, paprika, grape skin extract, beet juice, purple sweet potato, corn, and red cabbage are just a few alternative dyes.

CSPI names a few stark differences in foods served in the United States and Europe in the report.  In Britain, Fanta orange soda is dyed with pumpkin and carrot extract while the U.S. version is dyed with Red 40 and Yellow 6. Kellogg Strawberry NutriGrain bars are colored with Red 40, Yellow 6 and Blue 1 in the U.S., but with beetroot, annatto and paprika extract in the UK. McDonald’s Strawberry Sundaes are colored with strawberries in Britain but with Red dye 40 in America.

Consumer advocacy groups are calling on the FDA to enact similar policies in the United States. These groups argue that we deserve real strawberries too.

  • Doc Mudd

    Hmmm…The Center for Science in the Public Interest…aren’t they the same silly dumbasses who recently threatened to sue McDonalds for packaging toys in their Happy Meals?
    Sure, I’m gonna reflexly adopt CSPI’s twisted opinion as my own. On second thought, maybe I’ll stroll on down the midway, out of the carnival, down to the library and read the science for myself.
    CSPI is the food taliban. They have no regard for science nor the public interest.

    • Lol@ThisGuyDoctorDumm

      Blatant disregarding of factual information is what keeps people in ignorance, but I’m sure you’re in bliss because of it 🙂

  • This is such an outrage honestly! I just cannot get over the amount of “junk” and toxins that get through to us on our shelves everyday and no one seems to regulate enough. Why is it that other countries get the healthy things and we do not have this put in place? Our family tried to eat as healthy as we can and we just love whole foods and we avoid processed foods as much as possible. We refuse to buy the nasty “juice” drinks too because they are loaded with artificial ingredients (most of them I should say) but we only allow our kids to drink water except for special occasions. We also take our Vidazorb chewable probiotics to keep our bodies healthy and to help us digest foods better. It is an awful thing to hear that the next generation of kids may not outlive their parents! I do not want to believe that and so I am doing everything possible to ensure our kids a healthy life 🙂

    • freemasonsarentfree

      And the water isn’t that good either.mmmm chinese aluminium waste byproducts…its good for your teeth!I’m so fed up with the garbage I was taught throughout my life there is a plan to murder us all.and its right there clear as crystal.this is not just consumerism gone wild.they had 39 other red dyes before they selected this one.I wasn’t always a conspiracy theorist thought criminal.I’m not easily persuaded .just saw a ‘news’ story story being the oprative word..claiming diet soda was better than water for wieght loss.its the news its the fda claming these things so by definition it is in fact a conspiracy.

      • Redhands

        They don’t want to kill you …alll off!
        They want you dependent & retarded but, smart enuff to follow their orders.

    • Redhands

      Odd how the US didn’t make much fuss the several times China products poisoned our children, but really ticked off when pets started to die from their products.

  • Terry

    Sure does make me angry. I found another interesting article about allergies, nutrition and learning disabilities that your readers may find interesting. I’ve been applying some of the ideas and have been getting good results.

  • maggie

    We cut these out of our sons diet a year ago and it made a HUGE difference in his behavior. It’s so easy to color things using natural substances (veggies and such) I don’t know why they don’t make that the norm. Oh yeah, that would be too hard to do the right thing. Silly me. I’m sure someone’s getting rich off them….hope they’re kids aren’t ingesting these cancer causing colors too.

  • Zena

    Why are people so divided, and willing to look the other way, when it comes to discussion, yes discussion, about well-known toxins in our food supply? I’m so sick of people saying “it’s inconclusive”. Are the causes of heart disease inconclusive? Are the causes of lung cancer inconclusive? It seems to me that people are LAZY and don’t want to change their comfy lifestyles – even at the cost of their children and family’s health.

    • Alex Millman

      i agree. much like global warming

      • freemasonsarentfree

        Just remember we have been taking tempratures for only about a hundred years and other planets within our solar system are also warming up.don’t believe everything you hear let’s not all sign up to pay carbon taxes just yet.there is more to this food thing than cheapness btw….good luck everyone

      • the know it all

        the thing is, we shouldn’t ignore the fact that 6 hurricanes in the last 4 years and record lows are nothin? Just wait til’ 2050.

        • Redhands

          Ya know, HAARP was re-opened after Katrina did a 90 degree turn to N.O. and GW did a treaty w/ Russia & China, concerning (Tesla) weather experiments.

  • Lmyatt

    As an adult who has only recently started paying attention to food dyes, I’ve noticed that I get into some really down (almost suicidal) moods shortly after eating something with Red #40 in it.  It’s almost as bad as when my doctor at the VA had me on 80 mg of simvastatin (generic form of Zocor) to “help” my cholesterol.  The statins interfere with the production of serotonin and other vital brain chemicals at the same time that they interfere with the production of cholesterol.  Would Red #40 do something similar?

    • Collen

      Statins are known to cause diabetes and severe leg pains that might not go away even when the drug is stopped. Some people wind up in wheelchairs permanently. Doctors don’t take the time to investigate these complaints, even when the results show up. drop all dairy except fat free. Substitute coconut oil for butter and other oils. Add Co-Q-10 to your daily vitamin regime. In 3-4 weeks the results should please you. Must be taken without any Statins. Simva-Statin.

    • Elizabeth

      Absolutely! My daughter is 5 and has sad/angry fits after she eats anything with Red #40, even at age 2 she recognized that “something felt wrong” after she ate the food/candy with Red #40 in it. We both decided that Red #40 is not an option for her to eat anymore and are compulsive about looking at ingredient labels.

  • I am really happy to have found this article. It is a shameful truth that America area so little about what its citizens eat. Cancer is a wildfire here in America and we all need to make better food choices. Eating fast food or processed food will certainly cause a slow and painful death. Stop eating it now!

  • Please stop.eating fast and processed foods.

  • gross.

  • kourtney

    i hate eating this stuff. why does it taste so good, but be so dangerous. man, i hate that that is. i wish it would never have happend WHO THE HECK WOULD COME UP WITH SOMTHING SO DUMB AND ACT LIKE THEY DIDNT PUTT ANYTHNG IN IT.THEY WILL MEAN NO HARM ANY MORE WHEN ALL MOST ALL THE PPL DIE IN THE WORLD EATING THIS. that is sad. braks my heart and its shocking to know that.

  • Lamar Gaskins

    Will this get peoples attention or not?

    • Redhands

      Likely not! The public did not care many orphan subjects died during organ transplant research. Sen. Church, got the adults compensated for project Artichoke but everyone ignore the plight of the gifted children who’s lives were ruined badly, from project Artichoke!

  • Roger Whitfield

    So glad I found this article! It fed my desire to find an article about Red 40 possibly being banned!

  • Elizabeth

    At a very young age we discovered that my daughter had extreme fits of sad/angry rages after she ate anything with Red #40. It took her several severe tantrums, that were so unlike her, for us to figure out she was reacting badly and specifically to Red #40. Evan at a very young age she recognized that something was not agreeing with her, telling me in tears, “Mama, something feels wrong” after she had eaten food/candy with Red #40 in it. We both decided that Red #40 is not an option for her to eat ever again and we ALWAYS check the labels for ingredients. We just say, she is allergic to Red #40. Red #40 is in so many things that poison young children: all Jello Brand Foods, Fruit Chews, Ego Waffles, Cake Mixes, Gatorade and other “so called” healthy power drinks, chips, cereal and of course candy of all sorts. And please don’t feed your little ones Maraschino Cherries, or Red Velvet Cake or Cupcakes, those are deadly Red#40 cocktails! Many companies use beet juice and paprika to color popsicles and fruit candy red, I don’t know why more companies can’t protect our children and use natural coloring. We have recently added Yellow #5 and Yellow #6 to our list of “not to eat”. I’ve been reading more and more about the cancer relationship these dyes have. It is up to you to keep your little ones safe, the large money making food industries who market to children through the use of “fun” colors and toxic cancer causing and brain altering chemicals don’t care.

  • Kate

    Kevin, can you provide concrete/tangible, (not imaginary) examples of naturally occurring common food stuff that cause cancer in lab rats?

  • Nicole

    If I eat anything with lake red #40 or carmine … I go straight to the emergency room before I go into anaphylactic shock. Artificial food dye isn’t a joke.

  • Carol

    Cancer has become epidemic in America. No doubt these dyes are adding to the problem

  • Joe Smoo

    It all comes profits and population control.

  • Brooke

    I have a pretty healthy diet and make sure my kids eat healthy too. We eat as clean as reasonably possible. I read nutritional labels often. I have a nutritionist to advise me and even downloaded the app lol. Never have myself, my husband, or either of our children ever had such adverse behaviors after eating anything with red 40 in it. In fact, we just ate strawberry preserves with the dye in it this morning and so far nobody has committed suicide lol. Dyes are not the origin of your two-year-old’s tantrums lol. Stop over reacting. You’ll make yourselves sick worrying so much about it. And instead of reading only the articles about how these dyes are harmful, try reading the articles with supporting facts that speak to how it’s NOT THAT DRAMATIC. ANd always remember MODERATION.

    • Emmers

      Don’t automatically judge other people’s experiences just because you haven’t shared them. We knew something our daughter was eating was causing her eczema, but we eat really healthy meals, her eczema was generally mild, and we couldn’t link it with any one type of food. (We tried cutting things out systematically.) Then we gave her a couple of skittles a day for potty training and suddenly her eczema flared. We made the connection one night when, 20 minutes or less after just 2 skittles, she was standing in the tub wailing, with bright red patches of skin all over her body. We eliminated everything with dye and suddenly the problem was gone. Until she ate some generic mac and cheese just last week. It took us 2 days to figure out that was the cause of another flare-up. We checked the box and sure enough, several yellow dyes in it. We stopped the mac and cheese and it went away again. We’re not talking about a lot of dye at all. In fact, when my mom first suggested the dye in the 2-4 skittles a day might be causing her problems I shrugged it off. Turns out that, like a lot of chemicals (or medications,) a little goes a long way. Think of how small certain pills are, and many even have filler in them to hold them together. If you think I’m making this up, I invite you to our house and you can care for our red, crying 2 year old after we feed her some candy with dye in it.

  • Whyeatjunk

    It amazes me that so many people complain about how unhealthy the dyes are in the unhealthy junk they are feeding to their kids. It is simple.

    • Hunter Lee Thames

      What is “simple”?

  • Peggy Gibbs

    Its all about Money!!!!!

  • FrancesB.

    I have been to the ER 3 times because of red lake dye. It was on the 3rd visit that a doctor determined the reason for my body having such intense allergic reactions. Bp drops. confusion. hives. itching. O2 drops. weakness, Heart rate increases! Red Lake…then we checked. It was in my lotion, mouthwash, the dish detergent, cherry soda, (my used to be favorite) gum and vitamins….among hundreds of other stuff I randomly used. No more! At least I try to watch it…but American business is all about money. I don’t understand how Europe can be so responsible and America be so stupid and $ focused instead of carrying for its citizens. Very angered!!

  • Ashley

    The government wants us sick….they cant make money off us if we are all healthy …wake up America! !!

  • Fred Bracken

    Keep dreaming. CO2 is 0.04 percent of the atmosphere. Termites emit more CO2 than humans. Grow up.

    • Cosimo Melange

      Ha Ha ha! I don’t think anyone believes the issue is how much CO2 humans “emit”! It’s not like the issue is how much CO2 humans fart. Another ignorant, uneducated commenter who thinks he has slammed dunk a great point only comes up looking like a doofus. Epic fail!

      • Mary

        Cosimo there are kinder way to say things, but you are right. We have only been taking temperatures for 100 years… Couple years ago people thought the next ice age was right around the corner, we may be throwing off the planet’s atmosphere by a bit but it isn’t a problem

        • dolo.gon.solo

          I thought this was about food?

    • Justin

      Ok, fair enough… but, you can’t think that taking carbon buried underneath the ground for millions of years and shifting it from that stable state to one where it’s now in the atmosphere isn’t going to invoke some sort of change?

    • Redhands

      Maybe, the globe is just slipping a little. Maybe, unseen fallen powers & principalities want humans to cook in contrails or something. And, odd fact cows kill more humans then sharks 🙁 !

  • Bayez

    These dyes,such as “Red 40” contain benzidenes,which cause Bladder and Pancreatic forms of Cancer…So,use at your own risk…

  • rschlack

    I discovered by accident that Red 40 makes my tongue and cheeks swell. I had been biting my tongue and cheeks for a while now. Then it got so bad I had to take benadryl for a few days. I thought it was an antibotic side effect, which I happened to be taking. So it all went away and I was off the antibotic for 2 weeks. Decided to get Chuckles Candy on my train ride home. I hadn’t eaten anything for hours. My tongue swelled and I was having trouble breathing. This sucks because I’m a twizzler addict!

  • anna

    Why are people putting this in OUR food?Health and lives come before money. I dont know why people are putting this in our food if they were feeding themselves, they would eat