Food Dye: I’m Red with Anger and Green with Envy

PEEPSBY ANN CARROLL       By the end of this week, I’ll sport purple fingers and my kitchen will stink of vinegar. My family loves dying eggs for Easter—this year my girls picked out a tie-dye kit and sparkly glitter. What I don’t like are the uninvited dyes that make their way home in my grocery bags each week. More and more, I try to find ways to leave artificial dyes at the store—and that includes forgoing some candies in my girls’ Easter baskets.

Popular candies like M&M’s, Jellybeans, and Skittles contain dyes like Yellow 5, Yellow 6, and Red 40. Research shows that these ingredients can cause hyperactivity, stomach ache, breathing problems, eczema, and hives in children. Diagnosis of ADHD has increased by 42% from 2003 to 2011, and researchers cite food as a possible cause. The FDA even acknowledged the potential impact of artificial dyes at a 2011 hearing on Capitol Hill.

The more I hear, the more I work to eliminate artificial dyes from my kids’ diets. I’m jealous of our neighbors across the pond; Britain and the European Union require food manufacturers to specially label products containing artificial dyes as “may hav[ing] an adverse effect on activity and attention in children.” These requirements have virtually ended the use of artificial dyes throughout Europe.

Here’s what sends me over the edge: American companies using artificial dyes in America sell their products in Europe using natural ingredients. For example, Kellogg’s strawberry Nutri-Grain bars contain Red 40, Blue 1, and Yellow 6 here in America. But in Europe, Kellogg’s strawberry Nutri-Grain bars contain no artificial dyes, and instead use annatto (a yellow plant), paprika extract, and beets to achieve the same coloring. American companies are putting potentially harmful ingredients into our food—which is alarming—but the fact they’re doing this when they have a safe alternative is insulting.

We, as consumers, have choices. A trip to Earthfare or Whole Foods will reveal a myriad of organic lollipops, Jellybeans, and even M&M substitutes. The natural options do cost more but, let’s face it, our kids probably shouldn’t eat a “value-sized” bag of chocolate anyway. A few pieces will do.

We can all take independent actions to protect our families, but I challenge us to write to companies and urge them to stop putting profits before consumers’ health. We deserve better. Talk to your leaders, and sign petitions like the one started here by another concerned mother.




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