Are Food Dyes Harmful?

An assortment of colorful candy on full frame background with jellybeans, gumdrops and other jelly candies

Are Food Dyes Harmful? Find Out!

Hello All!!!

The bright colours of baked goods, candy and packaged juices may seem to be tempting. But do you know that food manufacturers use artificial dyes for the sole purpose of making food attractive? These colours are found almost in all foods. In the last 50 years the consumption of artificial food dye has increased by 500%.

The topic ‘Are Food Dyes Harmful?’  is debatable and in this post I am going to discuss the same.

Food dyes – what are they?

Are food dyes harmful

Food dyes are chemicals that have been developed for the sole purpose of enhancing the appearance of food by imparting an artificial colour. They were made from coal tar a long while ago. These days they are made from petroleum.

Food manufacturers prefer using artificial food dyes rather than natural food colour like beet extract and beta carotene. The reason is clear, the colours of food dyes are more vibrant.

However, there exists a lot of controversy over fact whether artificial food dyes are safe or not! USFDA and EFSA have concluded that the dyes don’t pose major health risks. However, not everyone agrees with this conclusion. Some food dyes are rendered safe in one country but are banned in another. This makes their safety extremely confusing.

Currently used food dyes

The following dyes have been approved by EFSA and USFDA:

Red No. 3 (Erythrosine):  It is a cherry-red coloring used commonly in popsicles, candies and gels for decorating cakes.

Red No. 40 (Allura Red): It is a dark red dye used in cereals, candy, condiments and sports drinks.

Yellow No. 5 (Tartrazine): A lemon yellow coloured dye that is added to soft drinks, chips, cereals, candy and popcorn.

Yellow No. 6 (Sunset Yellow): It is an orangish-yellow dye that is used in candy, baked goods, sauces and preserved fruits.

Blue No. 1 (Brilliant Blue): It is a greenish-blue dye used in packaged soups, canned peas, popsicles, ice-cream and icings.

Blue No. 2 (Indigo Carmine): This one is a royal blue dye added to candy, ice cream, snacks and cereal.

The most popular ones in use are Red 40, Yellow 5 and Yellow 6.

Food dyes and hyperactivity in children

Studies reveal a small but considerable association between artificial food dyes and hyperactivity in kids. Some of the kids are more sensitive to food dyes than others. It is better to avoid introducing your children to foods with artificial food dyes from an early age.

Can food dyes cause cancer?

Studies have been carried out to find out the link between dyes and cancer. It has been found that  Blue 1, Red 40, Yellow 5 and Yellow 6 dyes don’t have cancer-causing effects. However, there are concerns over Blue 2 and Red 3. Dyes like Red 40, Yellow 5 and Yellow 6 are known to contain cancer-causing substances in them.

However, more research is needed in this regard. Apart from Red 3 there is no convincing evidence to prove that food dyes cause cancer. Another point to be noted is that these studies were conducted decades ago and since then the consumption of dyes has increased dramatically.

food-dye-health, Are food dyes harmful

Food dyes and allergies

Certain food dyes can cause allergies in sensitive individuals. The ones are Blue 1, Red 40, Yellow 5 and Yellow 6.

Take home message

It is better to turn to whole and real foods free of dyes. Artificial food dyes are just meant for enhancing the look of food, they do not add to the nutritional value of the food.

Hope this post ‘Are Food Dyes Harmful?’ has been useful!

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