Food Dyes: A Rainbow of Food Safety Risks

Products colored with artificial food dyes inhabit most of the center aisles. They’re not only in breakfast cereals, fruit drinks, and candies, but also in some unexpected places, such as matzo balls and salad dressings.


In the 1990s, government scientists in the United States and Canada discovered that the three most widely used dyes, Red 40, Yellow 5, and Yellow 6, contained small amounts of known carcinogens. No more recent tests have been conducted.

Blue 1, Red 40, Yellow 5, and Yellow 6 cause occasional allergic reactions, and the FDA has acknowledged that dyes can trigger symptoms of some children who have ADHD or other behavior problems. To avoid those risks, read the labels and shun products with artificial colorings.

Fortunately, many natural colorings are available to replace dyes. But beware: “natural” does not always mean safe. Carmine and cochineal—colorings obtained from a bright red insect—can cause rare, but severe, anaphylactic reactions. Annatto, derived from a tropical fruit, can also cause allergic reactions.


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2 Replies to “Food Dyes: A Rainbow of Food Safety Risks”

  1. I am trying to find a 81 mg aspirin without colors and other garbage in it. Have not been successful yet. Any suggestions would be appreciated

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