Are Food Dyes Dangerous?

food dye

Rainbow sprinkles are one of my favorite edible items.  But after reading up on food dyes recently, I’m making a big effort to cut back on these artificially colored little logs.  What’s so bad about food dyes?  Well…

  • They’ve been associated with a variety of problems in children including hyperactivity, learning disabilities, aggressiveness, irritability, and allergies.
  • Some children are especially sensitive to food dyes, and may display symptoms of ADHD within an hour of eating a food dye, even if they don’t have ADHD or ADD.
  • Colored foods are rarely nutritious anyway — they are usually high-calorie, high-fat processed foods, so minimizing them for the purpose of overall health is a good idea.

How Can I Tell Something Has Food Dye?

Synthetic dyes must be listed by their specific name, so in the ingredients list you’ll see one of these (the top 3 are the most widely used):

  • Yellow #5 and #6
  • Red #40
  • Red #3
  • Green #3
  • Blue # 1 and 2
  • Citrus Red #2

How Can I Avoid Food Dye?

  • Eat mostly whole foods, like whole grains, fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and low-fat dairy (Duh, I know, but always worth mentioning)
  • Stick to “certified organic” when buying packaged, processed foods
  • Read the labels on products you buy to make sure one of the above colors is not listed in the ingredients
  • Look for “natural” food colorings in the ingredients, like beets, pomegranates, paprika, turmeric, carotenes, annatto, saffron, and elderberry juice.  While it’s best to just eat foods in their natural form, these are better choices than synthetic food dye.
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  1. Thank you for your article! As a parent of a child sensitive to artificial dyes, I’d like to plus the Feingold Association. It is a parent support group helping other parents of sensitive family members by researching the products free of the dyes, making suggestions on how to find natural dyes and other products. It’s website is There is also a Yahoo group that is helpful but joining the actual support group is highly encouraged!