The vivid hues of candies, sports drinks, and baked items are a result of artificial food dyes.
Even certain brands of pickles, smoked salmon, salad dressing, and pharmaceuticals include them.
Children are the biggest consumers of artificial food dyes, which have increased by 500% over the past 50 years (1Trusted Source, 2Trusted Source, 3Trusted Source).
Artificial colours have allegedly been linked to harmful side effects like cancer and allergies, as well as children becoming hyperactive.
There are many divergent views on this hotly debated subject about the safety of artificial food colours. This article distinguishes between fact and fiction.
What Are Food Dyes?
Food dyes are chemicals that were created to improve food’s look by giving it artificial colour.
Food has been coloured for hundreds of years, but the first synthetic food colours were made in 1856 from coal tar.
These days, petroleum is used to make food dyes.
Many of the hundreds of artificial food colours that have been created over the years—and the majority of them—have since been discovered to be hazardous. There are very few synthetic colours that are still used in food.
Because artificial food colours provide a more vivid colour than natural food colorings like beta carotene and beet extract, food makers frequently choose them.
Regarding the safety of artificial food colours, there is, nevertheless, a lot of debate. All
Artificial Dyes Currently Used in Food
The following food dyes are approved for use by both the EFSA and the FDA (4, 5Trusted Source):
Red No. 3 (Erythrosine): A cherry-red coloring commonly used in candy, popsicles and cake-decorating gels.
Red No. 40 (Allura Red): A dark red dye that is used in sports drinks, candy, condiments and cereals.
Yellow No. 5 (Tartrazine): A lemon-yellow dye that is found in candy, soft drinks, chips, popcorn and cereals.
Yellow No. 6 (Sunset Yellow): An orange-yellow dye that is used in candy, sauces, baked goods and preserved fruits.
Blue No. 1 (Brilliant Blue): A greenish-blue dye used in ice cream, canned peas, packaged soups, popsicles and icings.
Blue No. 2 (Indigo Carmine): A royal blue dye found in candy, ice cream, cereal and snacks.
Red 40, Yellow 5, and Yellow 6 are the most widely used food colorings. 90% of the food dyes used in the US are these three (3Trusted Source).
Other dyes are permitted in some nations but prohibited in others. The FDA has approved Green No. 3, often known as Fast Green, although it is prohibited in Europe.
Examples of food colorings that are permitted in the EU but prohibited in the US include quinoline yellow, carmoisine, and ponceau.
Food Dyes May Cause Hyperactivity in Sensitive Children
In 1973, a paediatric allergist asserted that artificial food colours and preservatives were to blame for the hyperactivity and academic difficulties that plagued kids at the time.
Many parents embraced his ideology even though there wasn’t any science to support it at the time.
In order to cure attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, the physician suggested an elimination diet (ADHD). The diet excludes a few other artificial components in addition to all artificial food colorings.
When youngsters were given a dose of artificial food colours, one of the initial studies, published in 1978, observed no alterations in their behaviour (6Trusted Source).
Since then, a number of research investigations have discovered a weak but substantial link between artificial food dyes and hyperactivity in kids (1Trusted Source).
According to one clinical trial, getting rid of artificial
Do Food Dyes Cause Cancer?
Artificial food dyes’ safety is hotly contested.
Long-term animal studies, however, are what have been used to assess the safety of food dyes.
It’s interesting to note that research employing the colours Blue 1, Red 40, Yellow 5 and Yellow 6 revealed no proof that they cause cancer (13Trusted Source, 14, 15Trusted Source, 16Trusted Source, 17, 18Trusted Source, 19Trusted Source).
However, other dyes might be more dangerous.
Concerns About Blue 2 and Red 3
Blue 2 studies on animals revealed a statistically significant rise in brain tumours in the high-dose group compared to the control groups, however the researchers came to the conclusion that the data was insufficient to infer that Blue 2 was the source of the cancers (20Trusted Source).
Additional research on Blue 2 revealed no negative consequences (21Trusted Source, 22Trusted Source).
The most debatable colourant is erythrosine, sometimes referred to as Red 3. Given erythrosine, male rats were more likely to develop thyroid cancers (23Trusted Source, 24Trusted Source).
Based on this research, the FDA banned erythrosine in part in 1990 but later lifted the restriction. After examining the data, scientists came to the conclusion that erythrosine did not directly cause thyroid cancers (24Trusted Source, 25, 26Trusted Source, 27Trusted Source).
Some Dyes Might Have Cancer-Causing Substances
There is some worry about potential impurities in the food dyes, even though the majority of them did not have any negative impacts in toxicity trials (28Trusted Source).
Red 40, Yellow 5, and Yellow 6 may have cancer-causing chemicals as pollutants. Food dyes have been shown to contain the probable carcinogens benzidine, 4-aminobiphenyl, and 4-aminoazobenzene (3Trusted Source, 29Trusted Source, 30Trusted Source, 31Trusted Source, 32Trusted Source).
Due to their low concentrations, which are regarded as safe, these pollutants are permitted in the dyes (3Trusted Source).
Healthy Whole Foods Are Naturally Free of Dyes
By concentrating on eating natural, unadulterated foods, you may eliminate artificial food dyes from your diet the best manner possible.
Contrary to processed diets, the majority of whole foods are very nourishing.
A few foods that are naturally dye-free are listed below:
Dairy and eggs include cottage cheese, milk, basic yoghurt, cheese, and eggs.
Fresh, unmarinated beef, hog, chicken, and fish are examples of meat and poultry.
Almonds, macadamia nuts, cashews, pecans, walnuts, and sunflower seeds without flavouring.
All fresh produce, including fruits and vegetables.
Grains: barley, quinoa, brown rice, and oats.
Black beans, kidney beans, chickpeas, navy beans, and lentils are all legumes.
Always check the label of an item before you eat it if you wish to eliminate all dyes from your diet. Some items that seem healthful actually include synthetic food colours.
Understanding Food Dye Allergies
Have you ever noticed that certain meals make you feel unwell after eating them? Many elements in the traditional American diet, such as lactose, wheat, soy, and additives like MSG and food colours, may not be suitable for everyone.
If you experience a bodily reaction after consuming meals containing certain substances, you might have an intolerance or allergy.
Food intolerance refers to a sensitivity to the food or an improper breakdown of the food by your body. A significant immune system reaction occurs as a result of a food allergy.
All food additives, including colours, are tested by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to ensure their safety. However, some people are more susceptible than others to dyes. And even though sensitivities to food dyes are quite common
Food dyes that can cause allergies
Allergies to food dyes are not very common. Overall, specialists think that only a few individuals are harmed by food dyes. Food additives might be created in a lab or come from a natural source.
Particularly several colours have been connected to allergy reactions: