Food Dyes: A Rainbow of Risks - WTNZ FOX 43 Knoxville, TN

Food Dyes: A Rainbow of Risks


Food dyes have been used in commercial food products for the last century have long been at the center of controversy.

Synthesized from petroleum, several dyes have been banned in the U.S. due to adverse effects in the lab studies.

There is additional concern today for more than nine dyes that are currently approved for use in the United States.

The most commonly used dyes are:

  • Yellow #5
  • Yellow #6
  • Red #40

These particular dyes are used in variety of food products usually marketed to children. 

Manufacturers say these artificial colorings are cheaper, more stable, and brighter in color than their natural counterparts.

But these colorings have been linked in studies to:

  • Hyperactivity in children
  • Aggressiveness in children
  • POSSIBLY certain cancers

In many cases, the research is supported by some scientists and disputed by others.

In 2010, the US FDA ruled that research was insufficient to say that food dyes caused hyperactivity, but didn't rule it out.   However, food dyes could exacerbate pre-exisiting problems in children with ADHD.

In 2010, the United Kingdom asked food companies to voluntarily remove these artificial dyes from their product.  This resulted in several world-wide companies such as Kellogg's and Kraft changing their products to include natural colorings such as beet juice, paprika, turmeric, and beta-carotene in their UK products, while still using the artificial colorings in their US products.

Some foods containing these artificial colors include:

  • Yogurts
  • Macaroni and cheese
  • Beverages such as fruit punch, sports drinks and flavored waters
  • Cereals
  • Candy, including M & M's, Twizzlers, fruit snacks, pudding and pie filling
  • Candy sprinkles

Registered dietician Angie Tillman from Blount Memorial Medical Center says if you want to avoid these food dyes you should eat real, whole foods which don't contain dyes anyway.  

You can shop at grocery stores that pledge to not sell foods with artificial food colorings.

Tillman also recommends you read the food labels or use an app such as fooducate that lets you scan the barcode on the products to find out if they have artificial food dyes. 



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