By now, you probably know that many artificial food dyes are bad for children’s health, with some triggering behavioral problems or even an increased risk of certain cancers. While food corporations must label food dye ingredients on the label, they don’t have to tell you how much they use. But for the first time ever, independent scientists have taken certain popular foods and tested them for synthetic food dye levels. The study, led by Purdue University scientists and published in the journal Clinical Pediatrics, commonly found levels beyond what is considered harmful in a single food product. Just imagine the dose after eating and drinking nonorganic, processed stuff all day long!
This is a legitimate concern, given that the three most common food dyes are linked to serious health issues.
• Allergy-like reactions
• Possible hyperactivity in kids
• Most common food dye used in America
• Allergy-like hypersensitivity reaction
• Allergy-like reactions tend to be worse in people also sensitive to aspirin
• Hyperactivity in some children
• Sometimes contaminated with cancer-causing benzidine and 4-aminobiphenyl
• Adrenal gland and kidney tumors in animal tests
• Occasional, sometimes severe hypersensitivity reactions
• Sometimes contaminated with carcinogens
Scientists at Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) say the findings of the Purdue study are disturbing because the amounts of dyes found in even single servings of numerous foods—or combinations of several dyed foods—are higher than the levels demonstrated in some clinical trials to impair some children’s behavior.
CSPI broke down some of the study’s most important findings. Keep in mind behavioral tests show that eating as little as 30 milligrams of synthetic food dye chemicals can trigger adverse reactions.)
Dire Levels of Food Dye Detected
• Trix cereal’s Yellow 6, Blue 1, and Red 40 ingredients added up to more than 36 milligrams of food dye chemicals.
• Fruity Cheerios contained 31 milligrams of food dyes.
• Out of all the cereals tested, the one with the most artificial dyes was Cap’n Crunch’s Oops! All Berries. It contained a whopping 41 milligrams.
• A child who eats 2 cups of Kraft Macaroni & Cheese, a small bag of Skittles, and 8 ounces of Crush Orange will consume 102 milligrams of artificial dye.
• Target Mini Green Cupcakes contain more than 55 milligrams of combined Yellow 5, Blue 1, Yellow 6, and Red 4, the highest level found in any food.
• Skittles and M&M’s contained the highest levels found in candies, with about 30 milligrams each per serving.
• Kraft Macaroni & Cheese contained nearly 18 milligrams of artificial dyes per serving.
• Keebler Cheese & Peanut Butter Crackers contained nearly 15 milligrams of artificial dyes, and Kraft’s Creamy French salad dressing had 5 milligrams.
• One of the largest sources of artificial dyes in the American diet is beverages.
•2.1 mg in Powerade Orange Sports Drink, 33.6 mg in Crush Orange, 41.5 mg in Sunny D Orange Strawberry, and 52.3 mg per serving in Kool-Aid Burst Cherry.
“Until now, how much of these neurotoxic chemicals are used in specific foods was a well-kept secret,” says CSPI executive director Michael F. Jacobson. “I suspect that food manufacturers themselves don’t even know. But now it is clear that many children are consuming far more dyes than the amounts shown to cause behavioral problems in some children.
“The cumulative impact of so much dyed foods in children’s diets, from breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks, is a partial reason why behavioral problems have become more common,” he adds.
• Kraft has removed food dyes from some child-oriented varieties of its Macaroni & Cheese (but not the most popular one.)
• General Mills has removed dyes from Trix and Yoplait Go-Gurt yogurts.
• Chick-fil-A removed Yellow 5 from its chicken soup.
• Frito-Lay has removed dyes from Lay's seasoned and kettle-cooked chips, Sun Chips, and Tostitos.
• Pepperidge Farm has removed dyes from its Goldfish Colors crackers.
Avoiding food dyes is relatively simple. Eat whole foods instead of processed foods as much as possible, and choose organic when you can—synthetic food dyes are banned in organic.