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How Does Food Dye Affect the Body?

Picture this..... it's Halloween (or any "candy" holiday). Your children have a party at school and you know it is going to be chaos in your house for the next few days until all that candy is gone. While they are in bed, you secretly throw some of it away because you know what it does to your kids.

If your kids are anything like mine, sugar with food dye can be an awful combination. My 3 sweet little boys turn into something resembling the Hulk and it ain't pretty. While getting Halloween candy ready to hand out, they are begging to partake in the festivities with some of that candy. So, after the incessant begging, tantrums and freaking out, you give in thinking in your own mind.... STOP! Just make it stop! But what is worse? The begging for the candy or the actual candy?

Food dyes can be found in many of the common foods you would think of, such as Jell-O, cake, ice creams, candy, cereal, fruit snacks, etc. Some other places you many never have even thought of having dyes lurking in them, like cheese, sausage, hair color and possibly even your meat. Americans are now eating 5 times more coloring in their foods than we did in the 1950's. Why? Because we need to make our processed foods more pleasing to the eye. Let's face it, if it doesn't look good, no one wants to buy it, let alone eat it. (1)

This is why a nonprofit Washington, D.C.-based consumer-watchdog group (Center for Science in the Public Interest) has asked the Food and Drug Administration to ban them. Man-made food dyes appear in ingredient lists as a color with a number following it: Blue 1 and 2, Citrus Red 2, Green 3, Red 3 and 40, Yellow 5 and 6. (1)

Red 40, Yellow 5, and Yellow 6 are the most common dyes used today. Even though there is a possibility of adverse effects, manufacturers pour almost 7,000 tons of these dyes into our products YEARLY. Besides making our foods and products "prettier" there is absolutely no need for them.

Consuming products which contain these synthetic food coloring has been liked to ADHD, ADD, allergies, asthma, learning issues, aggressiveness, possible DNA damage, cancer and a whole lot more.

Why Should You Care?

Well, yellow 5, yellow 6 and red 40—contain compounds, including benzidine and 4-aminobiphenyl, that research has linked with cancer. Yellow 5 has been known to cause hyperactivity in people who are sensitive to aspirin.

In a article called, 4-AMINOBIPHENYL, "The main sources of exposure to 4-aminobiphenyl for the general population are cigarette smoking and second-hand tobacco smoke, as 4-aminobiphenyl is formed during tobacco combustion. Other potential sources include hair dyes and food colourant." This study found an increase in bladder cancer among its users.

"Back in 1985, the acting commissioner of the FDA said that Red 3, one of the lesser-used dyes, “has clearly been shown to induce cancer” and was “of greatest public health concern.” However, Secretary of Agriculture John R. Block pressed the Department of Health and Human Services not to ban the dye. This decision was made even though the Delaney Amendment forbids the use of cancer-causing color additives in our foods." (2)

"Each year about 200,000 pounds of Red 3 are poured into such foods as Betty Crocker’s Fruit Roll-Ups and ConAgra’s Kid Cuisine frozen meals. Since 1985 more than five million pounds of the dye have been used." (2) These are truly staggering numbers. These "foods", if we can call them that, are geared toward our children, our future! European countries have banned these dyes a long time ago, but in the US we don't?! In the U.K. the red color of your strawberry sundae comes from actual strawberries (interesting concept), but not in the US. We color it with red 40.

"Tests on lab animals of Blue 1, Blue 2, Green 3, Red 40, Yellow 5, and Yellow 6 showed signs of causing cancer or suffered from serious flaws, said the consumer group. Yellow 5 also caused mutations, an indication of possible carcinogenicity, in six of 11 tests." (2) I don't necessarily agree with animal testing, but this paragraph says a lot. If cancer and tumors grow on these poor animals, what are we doing to ourselves by eating this stuff?

"Chromosomal damage has been linked to blue 1, red 3, and yellow 5 and 6. Bladder tumors to citrus red 2 (found in skins of Florida oranges), and green 3. The most widely used coloring dye is red 40. It has been connected to chromosomal damage, hyperactivity and lymphomas." (3) Since I started researching for this article, I have been watching what I buy and how it's colored. I couldn't believe the colors in things! Crackers, soda, applesauce, even syrup!

If you are at all concerned, don't buy a product with synthetic dyes. It is better to look for foods that have the USDA certified organic label on them. But remember back to my "What Does Organic Really Mean?" article? A product labeled, “made with organic ingredients” might actually still contain synthetic dyes. Look for ingredients like beet juice, carotenes (beta-carotene), blueberry juice concentrate, carrot juice, grape skin extract, paprika, pumpkins, cranberries, purple sweet potato, purple corn, red cabbage, turmeric, and other natural colorants.

Every time we cook with curry or turmeric it stains the counter top. It's a great alternative to fake color. "Remember the terms “artificial color,” “artificial color added” or “color added” also indicate that nature-derived pigments were used since synthetic dyes must be listed by their names". (1)

We are label readers. If it contains any sort of synthetic dyes or caramel color I try and steel clear of it. Heck, I have my 10 yo and 7 yo reading labels too. If it contains high fructose corn syrup, dyes or caramel color it's going to be a hard NO every single time. They don't even ask any more for products with this in it. I want them to be more aware of what we are eating and all the poisons in the things we are buying.

If you have any questions or would like to send me an email, please do so at I hope this article has been helpful and educational. Have a wonderful day!

Love and light,


Caution: The material on this page is not meant to take the place of diagnosis and treatment by a qualified medical practitioner. Since the actual use of this product by others is beyond our control, no expressed or implied guarantee as to the effects of their use can be given nor liability taken. Use at your own discretion. Any application of the recommendations is at the user’s risk. Sweet Willow Spirit, LLC disclaims any liability arising directly or indirectly from the use of this information and assumes no responsibility for any actions taken. This should not be used in place of traditional therapies but solely as a complementary means for bringing well-being. The FDA has not evaluated the statements on this website. No claims are made as to any medicinal value of any oil or healing modality.

(1) Holistic Healthy Living, "This is What Can Happen to Your Body After Eating Artificial Food Dyes"

(2) Center for Science in the Public Interest, "CSPI Says Food Dyes Pose Rainbow of Risks", June 29, 2010.

(3) Holistic Healthy Living,

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