food dyes

I have not had much time for writing these days, which I feel sad about because there are some important topics (mainly VBACs and fashion…ever thought those two things would be uttered in the same sentence?) that I’ve been excited (wait, is that the right word?) to share with you. But today I lecture on the pharmacological treatments for obesity (a topic which I know as much about as my students), I’ve spent several days reading, grading, and providing detailed feedback on their midterm papers, Tim has been out of town for three days, Oliver’s teacher called me yesterday with the news that she thought he might have conjunctivitis (thankfully, he did not), and I have to give a presentation to a scientific advisory committee at the start of next week- which I haven’t finished drafting. All this is to say that VBACing and fashion will have to wait.
In the meantime, and in the interest of just posting something (anything) to keep my readers informed, I thought I would share a link from The Soft Landing, the topic: food dyes. As you may, or may not, know a majority of the food dyes used in this country are synthetic, and have been linked to allergies, asthma, hyperactivity, and even cancer (even  Center for Science in the Public Interest [a consumer advocacy organization whose whose twin missions are to conduct innovative research and advocacy programs in health and nutrition, and to provide consumers with current, useful information about their health and well-being] agrees with this).

The three most widely used dyes (Red 40, Yellow 5, and Yellow 6) may be contaminated with known carcinogens, and Red 3, which is produced with ammonia, has been acknowledged for years by the FDA to be a carcinogen, yet is still widely used in foods- in the US. In many other industrialized nations (including the UK, have you heard of it?) companies long ago removed these dyes from their products. The Sift Landing article states: “For example, U.S. Nutrigrain bars are made with the color ingredients Red No 40, Yellow No 6, and Blue No 1. while U.K. Nutrigrain bars are made with beetroot red, annatto, and paprika extract.” Hmmmm….

Now, perhaps the science that tells us these things are bad for our health “require” us to consume vast quantities of the dyes- quantities that (at least the manufacturers would argue) could not possibly be obtained simply by eating their product. Maybe. But surly this effect is cummulative – where exposure over a lifetime matters – and when I have to actively search (sometimes many stores) for dye-free products for my infant, and when you start to pay attention to just how many items contain these dyes, I’m not entirely sure that we are not approaching these limits (even if they are high).

I’ll get off my soapbox now…

Wondering what to do? Well, like with most nutrition advice out there, I say eat real food. Short of that, you can check out how to make your own natural dyes (for fabrics) or order these natural food dyes (for food) which are made from concentrated vegetable colorants (need something in bulk? Berry Farms also sells products like this Beet Root Powder, which can be used as a natural colorant. Of course, they also sell the standard colors, made with FD&C dyes, so caveat emptor).

2 thoughts on “food dyes

  1. Your topic is right on. Synthetic dyes are doing terrible things to our kids. Perhaps you are aware of the Feingold Assoc. It helps families learn how to buy products free of them.


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