The US food industry has been adding FDA approved synthetic chemical dyes to our food supply since 1963. These dyes include known and suspected carcinogens and other substances that have been found to cause medical issues like attention and anxiety disorders* in children.
Laboratory-designed artificial chemical compounds do no more than improve the visual acceptability of processed edible material. The dyes are derived from fossil fuels, formerly coal tar, and now from crude oil.
Approximately seventy percent of the food we eat is processed food. The bulk of it is colored with more than 15,000,000 pounds of approved dyes for buyer appeal.
Additives to our food carry the designation of GRAS (Generally Regarded As Safe). We assume the GRAS designation is granted after a laboratory evaluation by FDA scientists. NOT SO!
The manufacturer's qualified expert simply provides its own data to the FDA. If the FDA accepts the manufacturer's data, the GRAS designation is approved without any testing by the FDA.
We Eat Nine Approved Dyes
Currently, there are nine food dyes approved by the FDA under Title 21 CFR (Code of Federal Regulations) Part 74 for use in foods under the Food, Drug & Cosmetic (FD&C) law.
There are health concerns with some currently approved dyes, and not one of them has any nutritional value.
FDA will only ban an additive if there is conclusive data documenting a health danger. The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), on the other hand, will restrict the use of any additive if there is any suggestion of physical danger to people.
These are the dyes currently approved by the FDA:
Blue 1 (Brilliant Blue)
Studies to date suggested that Blue 1 may cause kidney tumors in mice, and there is an additional suggestion that it may also affect nerve cells.
While there is no indication that Blue 1 causes cancers in people, more studies take place, and you should consider avoiding them.
Blue 1 was approved fly FDA in 1969 for use in foods generally. It is mostly used in ice-cream, canned peas, packaged soups, popsicles, and icings.
Blue 2 (Indigo Carmine)
There is statistical evidence that Blue 2 causes tumors like brain gliomas in male rats.
Blue 2 was approved by the FDA in 1987 for use in foods generally. It is mostly used in candy, ice-cream, cereal, and snacks.
Citrus Red 2
This dye was FDA approved in 1963. It is used only to color the skins of oranges. At relatively low levels, it is toxic to rodents and is known to have caused bladder tumors.
Citrus Red 2, is not approved by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA).
So is orange zest a good ingredient in baked goods?
Green 3 (Fast Green) (Turquoise)
Male rats exposed to Green 3 have presented with increases in bladder tumors and tumors in the testes, but the FDA has declared it safe.
Green 3 was approved by the FDA in 1982 for use in foods generally. It is mostly used in ice cream, sherbet, drink mixers, and baked goods.
Green 3 is not approved by the EFSA.
This dye was FDA approved in 1966 only for casings or surfaces of hot dogs and sausages.
Orange B is not approved by the EFSA.
Red 3 (Erythrosine)
Red 3 causes thyroid cancer in animals. It is banned for use in cosmetics and externally applied drugs.
But it was approved by the FDA in 1969 for use in ingested drugs, confections, beverages, cereals, ice cream cones, frozen dairy desserts, popsicles, frostings, and icings.
Red 40 (Allura red)
This dye causes allergy-like reactions in a few consumers and is suspected to be the cause of hyperactivity in children. Red 40 is suspected to be the cause of immune-system tumors in mice. Nevertheless, Red 40 is the most widely used food dye.
Red 40 was approved fly FDA in 1971 for use in foods generally. It is mostly used in sports drinks, candy, condiments, and cereals.
Yellow 5 (Tartrazine)
This dye has caused hypersensitivity and behavioral effects n children.
Yellow 5 was approved by the FDA in 1969 for use in foods generally. It is most used candy, soft drinks, chips, popcorn, and cereals.
Yellow 6 (Sunset Yellow)
The FDA and the producers of this dye deny all test results showing that it causes adrenal tumors in animals.
Yellow 6 was approved by the FDA in 1986 for use in foods generally. It is most used in candy, sauces, baked goods, and preserved fruits.
In addition to including the identity of food dyes on product labels, note that dyes can also be listed on food labels simply as "artificial color."
Most processed foods contain dyes. Who knew, for example, that pickles are colored with Yellow 5; vanilla frosting is colored with Yellow 5 & 6; Flintstones vitamins are colored with Blue 2, Red 40 and Yellow 5, and Fiber One 90 Calorie bars contain mixtures of Yellow 5&6, Red 40 and Blue 1.
So read the label! Avoid dyed products or just ignore your health — It'll go away.
* Kobylewski, Sarah and Jacobson, Michael F., Food Dyes, a Rainbow of Risks
2.) Bell, Becky, Healthline "Food Dyes: Harmless or Healthful"