Bright blue snow cones and psychedelic sprinkles have a big appeal with kids. And yellow lemonade, brown granola bars and beige salad dressings seem natural, but are often artificially colored, too. Unfortunately, there is good reason to believe that amping up the look of foods with artificial colors is a bad thing. Especially for kids.
According to the Center for Science in the Public Interest’s 2010 report “Food Dyes: A Rainbow of Risks,” the use of food dyes has increased fivefold since 1955. Most of them are derived from petroleum, although one red, cochineal, is made from ground up beetles, a big no for vegans.
The report makes clear that there is really no benefit to adding these carcinogenic, mutagenic, neurotoxic chemicals to our food supply, especially when there are natural alternatives, like red derived from beets. It also states definitively that artificial colors do promote hyperactivity and ADHD in both children and adults.
In fact, European countries have been requiring warning labels on artificially colored foods since last year, stating: “consumption may have an adverse effect on activity and attention in children.” Many American companies make versions of artificially colored food they sell here with natural alternatives to sell in Europe, so it’s not like they can’t make the switch.
Now I don’t know about you, but it seems like plenty of adults I know are suffering from various levels of ADHD, and can’t pay attention to anything for very long. You can blame twitter and television, but when we know that these additives are promoting this, maybe we are looking at mass brain intoxication.
All those energy drinks aren’t naturally yellow, you know.
On CSPI’s Definitely Avoid list, the top offenders are Blue #2, Green #3, Orange B, Red #3, and Yellows #5 and #6. They all go by aliases, as well, so if you see erythrosine on an ingredient list, that is a red dye.
As a consumer, avoiding artificial colors can be tricky. Citrus Red, a known carcinogen, is used to color the skins of oranges. As a zest user, I find that reprehensible, but since I buy organic, I am avoiding it. Red 40 is implicated in immune system tumors and hyperactivity, and is the most commonly used color in the food supply. Most of the colors are implicated in asthma, rhinitis and hives.
Just skipping the snow cones is no guarantee, believe it or not, Smart Start Cereal and Nature Granola Bars can contain colors, as do almost all Kraft salad dressings. You would think that getting granola to be brown would be a no brainer, but who knows what goes on in the packaging process or while it sits on the shelf.
Read labels, buy all-natural foods and go organic to avoid food dyes. That neon sports drink or baby blue frosted cupcake may seem innocuous, but why add to your toxic load? Just avoiding unnaturally neon foods is not enough, either, as they slip these things into natural looking foods, like canned fruit, that might get a little too pale in the preservation process. Look for foods that use natural food coloring, such as annatto extract, beta-carotene, beet powder, caramel color, fruit or vegetable juice, paprika, saffron and turmeric.
There are enough things that we ingest and breathe that we can’t control, and if we know that these are harmful why put them in our bodies? Maybe if we stop buying this junk they will take a hint.