Artificial Dyes & Colors
Last week’s blog about Coloring Easter Eggs using natural dyes caused a very interesting discussion by people about artificial dyes. I started to combine the questions and answer them in a forum discussion but a blog with more information about artificial dyes seemed more appropriate.
The basic question was if food coloring was really bad for you? There were a multitude of versions of this question but they all had some thread of interest in this basic question, so I’ll do my best to explain why it’s best to avoid food artificial dyes and food coloring whenever possible. Last week’s blog will help you color your Easter eggs naturally, so don’t worry about the holiday.
Too Much Artificial Colors
Like many other areas of our food system – there’s just too much! According to the report, Food Dyes- A Rainbow of Risks, food manufacturers put about 15 million pounds of artificial colors into our food every single year. Since 1955, our consumption of these dyes has risen five-times. The scariest part is that artificial colors are found in a wide variety of the foods.
These dyes have been linked to allergic reactions, hyperactivity in children, and even cancer. The FDA itself has even recognized Red 3 as being a carcinogenic dye, yet it’s still in our foods and on the market.
The Grocery Manufacturers Association has continually spoken out against the criticisms, saying food dyes are perfectly safe and that a direct “cause and effect” link between artificial colors and health issues hasn’t been demonstrated. But, it took almost a hundred years to have enough direct links for the U.S. government to admit that trans fats were causing a host of chronic diseases. They now recommend you don’t eat them at all, but they are still allowed in our foods.
Responsibility for Artificial Colors
Often people question why this happens. I’ve written about it before – 1) follow the money trail to see who is benefiting from keeping poor quality foods that cause health issues in our food source. 2) these companies have a lot of money to line the pockets of politicians, hire lobbyists, and produce scare tactic advertising. 4) these companies have stockholders and investors to please – that’s about return on investment, not about health. 3) as a society we aren’t paying enough attention – we believe the government is going to protect us, doctors know best, and a pill will fix it (until they don’t).
Past Bans of Artificial Colors
Just so you know, at least a couple artificial colors which were deemed safe by the FDA were eventually banned. In 1950, they banned Orange #1 after numerous children fell ill after eating Halloween candy. In 1976, they banned Red #2 after it was suspected to be carcinogenic. In 1978, they recommended banning Orange B. Interestingly – they were considered safe . . . until they weren’t.
Are Artificial Colors Safe?
According to the report, Food Dyes- A Rainbow of Risks, the Center for Science in the Public Interest states that all of the most popular food colorings are contaminated with cancer-causing agents.
Common sense dictates that the FDA knows these additives are not completely safe. After all, they do not allow companies to claim that any dyes are “generally recognized as safe” (GRAS), and require that every single batch of food dyes be tested and certified to ensure it meets current legal standards.
In recent years, as some consumers have become more conscious of the potential poisons in their food, some food manufacturers have responded by using natural colors, including those made from vegetable dyes (like beets). But, the largest food makers, including most cereals and treats designed for kids, are not making these changes.
Artificial Colors – Bottom Line
I think it’s fair to say that artificial colors, food colorings, and dyes aren’t safe. I don’t want to run the risk. My family’s health is more valuable to me that making money for large corporations. And, I’m sure all the parents who children were ill in 1950 from Orange #1 and in 1976 from Red #2 wish they hadn’t taken the risk either.
Read your labels. Find a product that doesn’t have colors with numbers, artificial colors, artificial dyes, or food coloring. When demand increases for higher quality, healthy foods, companies listen and make changes. Be part of the change instead of part of the statistics.