Red 40, Yellow 5, Blue 1… read the labels on hundreds of foods and beverages sold in the United States and you are bound to see these and other artificial food colorings among the ingredients. There are some studies that link these dyes to behavior problems in children. Earlier this year, a Food and Drug Administration panel investigated a link between hyperactivity in children and artificial dyes. Their findings were inconclusive, but the panel did recommend further investigation.
The possible link between food dyes and children’s behavior is just one area of concern. Many people are concerned about the overall safety of these man-made artificial dyes, especially since they have no nutritional benefit and are mainly added for cosmetic reasons.
I made the decision to remove these products from my family’s diet about a year ago when I began reading food labels. I was shocked to find how many items my family ate that included these dyes, everything from yogurt to cereal to jello! You can view a complete list by clicking here. I did notice a change in my children’s behavior, but I am not sure if it was linked to the elimination of the dyes, or just eating healthier.
It is fairly easy to avoid artificial dyes, just stick to eating foods that are as close to their natural state as possible. When you do purchase a packaged item, always check the food label (the FDA requires that dyes be listed on all processed foods). Popsicles are a great treat this time of year, but make sure you find one that is colored naturally, or make your own. If you’re worried your children will be mad that you eliminated their favorite snack, don’t be! Many dye-free alternatives can be found in the organic section of your supermarket.
Many of the dyes used in the US are banned in Europe. This means many companies are all ready making a dye free version of their foods. For example, NutriGrain bars in the US are colored with Red 40, Yellow 6, and Blue 1. In the UK they are colored naturally with beetroot, annatto, and paprika extract. Some companies are making changes. I was thrilled to see Yoplait’s Go-Gurt Yogurt come out with a Simply Go-Gurt that eliminates the dyes. There is still a fair amount of sugar in them, but if you treat them as a “treat” it’s not so bad. Hopefully more companies will start using natural colorings as the public demands.