Fact or Myth: Are Artificial Food Dyes Dangerous?

This is a FACT.

Ever wonder how your macaroni got so orange and your fruit punch so red? How about the strawberry-colored yogurt you like so much? Or even your purple-tinted vitamin water that’s supposed to be refueling your body with electrolytes? As tantalizing as these colorful foods and beverages may be, they are loaded with artificial food dyes that have been shown to contain cancer-causing compounds. Despite increasing tumor risk, allergies, and behavior and mood disorders, artificial food dyes are prevalent in baked goods, cereal, processed and packaged foods, candy, and pharmaceuticals. Food manufacturers use five times more artificial food dyes today than they did 30 years ago…and despite warnings from the Center for Science in the Public Interest, the FDA refuses to ban food dye from food, drugs, and personal care items.

food coloringRed Dye

Red food dye makes an appearance in candy, cereal, desserts, sausage, and maraschino cherries. Red dye #2 (found in Florida oranges) has been shown to increase bladder tumor risk. Red dye #3 (aka Erythrosine) has been banned from external use products but is still a common component in the foods we ingest. It is considered a carcinogen and has been linked to allergies, learning impairments, mood disorders, and hyperactivity in kids. The most common food dye , red dye #40—labeled FD&C Red No. 40, Allura Red, and Red 40—is derived from petroleum and has been associated with side effects such as:

  • Hives
  • Swelling of the mouth
  • Hypersensitivity
  • Cancer

Several studies indicate that red food dye damages the DNA of mice. It’s safe to assume our DNA doesn’t fare much better.

Yellow and Blue Dye

Yellow and blue food dyes are still undergoing testing, but preliminary results suggest that these colorful dyes contribute to behavioral issues in kids, worsen allergy and asthma symptoms, and cause adrenal, brain, and kidney tumors.


  • Yellow #5 (Tartrazine)
  • Yellow #6
  • Blue #1
  • Blue #2 (Indigotine)
  • Green 3
  • Orange B

If you see “lakes” listed in the ingredient list, beware! This is just food dye in water-insoluble form, and it’s just as dangerous!

The FDA Fails Again

Since the 1970s, researchers have been studying the link between artificial food colors and ADHD. An analysis of 21 studies found that artificial food dyes influence hyperactivity, restlessness, and attention problems. Removing food dyes proved to be ¼ to ½ as effective as Ritalin and other pharmaceutical stimulants in reducing symptoms, which begs the question—if food dyes were no longer part of our food source, would ADHD meds and similar drugs ever be needed?

A 2007 British study published in The Lancet confirmed the link between food dyes and behavioral problems. The United Kingdom, as well as other European countries, responded by phasing out the use of food coloring in foods. Companies like Kraft and Mars have removed food dyes from their processed foods sold in Europe. It’s a different story in the United States. Your mac and cheese and Dove chocolate bars still contain harmful food dyes! And why not? The FDA refuses to ban these ingredients, so why should food manufacturers bother to remove them?

Take Control

You like a colorful plate…and so do we! Remember, you don’t have to sacrifice your health to add a bit of color to your life. Color (and flavor) your food with safe natural food coloring like beet juice, paprika, carotene, red cabbage, and turmeric.