Making Sense of Confusing Food Labels
Food Dyes Could Be Harmful
“If your child has gobbled up a whole bag of jelly beans or eaten a cupcake with bright blue icing, and is bouncing off the wall, you might just blame it on the sugar. But the food dye might be another culprit,” Cynthia Harington explained.
Every day, our children are exposed to more food dyes, additives and chemicals. Many kids are ingesting chemicals all day long, from their striped toothpaste and festive breakfast cereals to their sport drinks, vividly-colored gelatin desserts, and liquid medicines. For some, this can lead to chemical sensitivities causing skin breakouts and rashes.
“Blue lips are no laughing matter,” added Harington, a nationally recognized nutritionist with over 30 years of experience in healthcare and wellness. “I’ve seen kids at the ball park who have eaten so many foods with artificial dyes that the skin all around their mouth is discolored. Artificial dyes are no joke – they have been associated with headaches, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.”
According to The Center for Science in the Public Interest, “Most artificial colorings are synthetic chemicals that do not occur in nature. Because colorings are used almost solely in foods of low nutritional value (candy, soda pop, gelatin desserts, etc.), you should simply avoid all artificially colored foods… Colorings cause hyperactivity in some sensitive children.”
Knowing what to watch for on food labels empowers you to choose foods without harmful dyes.
FD & C Yellow No. 5 contains tartrazine. People with aspirin sensitivity might not tolerate it, and it may be an especially bad choice for those who have frequent asthma. Tartrazine is derived from coal tar, which has caused concerns for people who consume it.
FD & C Red No. 3 contains erythrosine, which is also a coal tar based compound. There is suspicion that it might be carcinogenic.
The FDA maintains that artificial dyes are safe, citing numerous studies that found no ill effects. But the Center for Science in the Public Interest called on the FDA to ban eight of the most common artificial dyes (FD & C colors: BLUE 2, GREEN 3, ORANGE B, RED 3, YELLOW 5, YELLOW 6, CITRUS RED 2, RED 40), or at least affix a warning label to products that contain them: "Warning: The artificial coloring in this food causes hyperactivity and behavioral problems in some children."
There are many safe, natural dyes. Some, for instance, are derived from beets or carrots. Names of natural colorants include: Chlorophylls (green), Riboflavin (yellow), Turmeric (yellow), Betacyanins (red), Caramel (beige to brown), Anthocyanins (orange-red to red to blue), and Carotenoids (yellow to orange to red).
Paying attention to labels takes a little more time, but it will help you make more healthful food choices for your family. Watch for next month’s issue where we will discuss another aspect of reading labels to help you make the best decisions.