The Danger of Artificial Colorants

Laura Tolentino

Consuming even small quantities of synthetic dyes can overwhelm the immune system, leading to cross-reactivities and autoimmunities which in turn may result in gastrointestinal issues, hyperactivity and other neurobehavioral side effects.

There are safe alternatives to synthetic food coloring available today. By opting for products made with organically grown or processed produce, you can limit exposure to these hazardous chemicals.

Environmental Impact

Food dyes are used in an array of products to add visual appeal, from fruit punch and mint-flavored toothpaste to cosmetics and household goods. While FDA has deemed food dyes safe for consumption and disposal purposes, their environmental impacts can still be severe when improperly handled.

Dietary dyes used today are predominantly synthetic; however, some natural alternatives also exist. Before the early 1900s, people and companies relied on natural dyes derived from plants, minerals or animals to color food products; these often contained harmful toxins like mercury, arsenic and copper that were then harmfully inhaled into our systems. By 1900 scientists had formulated synthetic dyes from coal tar for replacement purposes; yet even these newer versions presented problems; red hues have been linked with hyperactivity among children while yellow hues worsen asthma symptoms in those suffering from asthma symptoms.

Concerns over artificial colorings have led various groups to urge the FDA either to withdraw approval for certain dyes, or at the very least add warning labels on foods containing them. Consumer advocates such as Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), however, have proposed banning six of eight approved dyes – especially widely-used FD&C Red No. 3, which has been shown to cause severe allergic reactions in some children.

Avoiding food dyes is relatively straightforward. The Center for Science in the Public Interest suggests prioritizing foods high in nutrients and low in calories while checking labels for synthetic dyes prior to purchase. While FDA has reviewed and approved many synthetic dyes in the past, no guarantee can be given for long-term consumption.

Organic foods are the best way to steer clear of artificial dyes altogether, since USDA certification guarantees they won’t contain any synthetic hues. Although organic options may be more costly, they’re healthier options for your family’s well-being. If you do decide to purchase products containing artificial hues, look for products bearing this label – otherwise known as USDA organic certification.

Human Health Impact

Artificial food dyes are used in an assortment of foods and drinks, from soft drinks and candy bars to processed foods and cereals, condiments and condiments. Artificial dyes in the US are designated by their Food and Drug Administration label of “FD&C,” while E numbers used by some European Union nations (and most banned altogether in some nations). Studies conducted by FDA indicate that chronic consumption of certain synthetic colors may lead to adverse health consequences in humans such as hyperactivity and allergic reactions.

Die dyes’ chemical structure allows them to bind with proteins found within our bodies, leading to immunological consequences. For instance, the ingestion of large antigenic molecules can trigger an inflammatory cascade which leads to intestinal permeability allowing these dyes into our bloodstream where they bind immune system cells and inhibit their functions; ultimately leading to autoimmunity and neurobehavioral disorders.

Synthetic colorants have also been found to interfere with hormone production in the body, potentially disrupting normal development and leading to metabolic imbalances that contribute to obesity and type 2 diabetes. Consumer groups and scientists alike have called upon the FDA either to withdraw approval of these chemicals or inform consumers about any possible health risks they pose.

Blue 2 food dye has been linked with tumors in animals while Red 40 has been proven to cause behavioral changes that mimic ADHD in animal experiments. Furthermore, Yellow 6 is associated with asthma in both humans and animals.

There are many natural alternatives available to us when it comes to replacing harmful artificial food dyes with safe alternatives. When shopping organic products and checking labels for ingredients like natural vegetable- or mineral-derived dyes listed on their ingredient lists. Look out for USDA organic labels as well as ingredients such as beet, carotene, annatto or capsanthin (a paprika extract) to ensure that a product contains only all-natural components.

Animal Health Impact

Food industry colors come from plant, animal and microorganism sources; with plant- and microbial-based dyes having the lowest environmental impact and cost compared to synthetic alternatives (Wrolstad & Culver 2012). Natural pigments also boast greater stability for use in foods and cosmetics products whereas synthetic dyes are unreliable and must be mixed with other components to increase stability (Wrolstad & Culver 2012).

The Food and Drug Administration has banned over 25 artificial food coloring agents and only approved few remaining dyes are subject to stringent regulations regarding how much can be used and in what products.

Studies suggest that more than 40 percent of marketed children’s food in the United States contains one or more of three synthetic dyes commonly used as food colorants: Red No 3, Yellow No 5 and Yellow No 6. These dyes have been linked with behavioral changes, including hyperactivity in children; however, pinpointing exact links remains difficult despite rigorous efforts at conducting studies; children often appear more sensitive than others to chemical toxins found in food supply sources.

Apart from their harmful health impacts, chemical-based food additives are nonbiodegradable and contribute to global waste accumulation and pollution. Coal tar dyes in particular are extremely harmful; being linked with cancer, allergies, asthma and other serious medical problems.

To reduce artificial food dye intake, look for organic foods. Not only are these more nutritionally sound but they may be visually more pleasing because plant-based dyes may replace synthetic ones. Also check for certification from USDA so you know you are receiving authentic product without chemical-based food dyes added later. Also avoid Red No 3 food dye-laden items which could potentially increase exposure.

Ecological Impact

Environmentalists are extremely concerned with the ecological effects of synthetic dyes. Their chemicals and solvents leach into waterways, where they can harm aquatic life and plants as well as interfere with photosynthesis – essential to photosynthesis for photosynthesis organisms like fish. Furthermore, the colors accumulating in water prevent light from penetrating to its depths which leads to dead fish and reduced oxygen levels; furthermore these chemicals also destroy soil nutrient levels leading to decreased plant growth due to lack of nutrients available nearby plants.

Food manufacturers are responding to consumer concerns over artificial colorings by replacing them with natural alternatives. Many companies, such as Mars, General Mills and Coca Cola have pledged to remove such dyes from their products; however, many grocery store snacks still contain artificial hues.

Although the FDA hasn’t banned any of the remaining seven approved dyes outright, they are restricting their usage by adding warning labels to foods containing them. Consumer advocates are encouraging them to take an even stronger stance by banning these dyes altogether.

At present, Red No. 3, Yellow No. 5, and Yellow No. 6 food dyes are among the most frequently utilized synthetic food dyes. Many highly processed food items containing these colors are highly processed and targeted towards children, such as candy bars, cookies, fruit drinks or cereals containing these colors.

Although the FDA claims that dyes are safe, evidence points towards their danger for humans and animals alike. Studies have linked dyes with hypersensitivity reactions, allergies and even cancer in some instances; many individuals also experienced gastrointestinal discomfort from repeated exposure to these chemicals.

Now is an excellent time to switch over to organic and natural products at your grocery store, so keep an eye out for organic labels on groceries, and avoid foods marketed towards children that contain synthetic dyes that could harm them. One effective way of doing this is choosing high-nutrient whole foods over processed junk food; otherwise look out for ingredients with beet, carotene, annatto or capsanthin (derived from paprika) listed as ingredients so as to identify natural food coloring without chemicals in their ingredient lists.