People tend to “eat with their eyes as much as with their mouths”, and this is certainly the case when we are dealing with color. From commercials, to a billboard, brands and stores urge us to buy their goods. Vivid colors and images draw our attention as we walk down the aisles of the grocery store. What might not be so attractive is knowing that some of the colors you see, are linked to harmful effects. Most parents don’t check the ingredients when they are grocery shopping and are unaware of what is actually being consumed by their child. Parents should be more concerned about their child’s health and should always check to see if a food product contains dye. Warning labels should be placed on food products that contain food dye.
Sales of food across the United States are successful due to good marketing and strategic advertising. Consumers prefer that the color of food matches its flavor. Most people would not want to eat blue cheetos or green ketchup. The link between color and taste is logical. We expect orange-colored drinks to be orange flavored and purple-colored drinks to be grape flavored. Most colorful items are aimed toward children. This manipulates parents into buying dyed products without knowing what they are feeding their kids.
Manufacturers originally used coal tar in the formula and now use petroleum in dyes. Over 15 million pounds of dye are used annually and in the early 1970s it was observed that chemicals in food dye can trigger symptoms of hyperactivity and inattention in children. The hypothesis generated great interest among researchers and parents. Over half a million kids could be experiencing behavioral reactions from food dye. The Food and Drug Administration has since then acknowledged the public that “data suggests behavioral reactions may be due to exposure to synthetic color additives”.
Hyperactivity and ADHD are not the only effects of food dyes; Cancer is also a high concern. This was brought to some consumers attention when manufacturers tested the dye Red #3 in 1990. The dye was concluded to contain carcinogens (cancer causing substance in the tissue). There was also a possible cancer concern in Yellow 5 and 6. The two dyes were thought to contain Benzidine. The International Agency for Research on cancer determined benzidine as a carcinogen in 2001. Most companies along with the FDA are aware of what is in the dye but don't want to hurt “business”. The FDA even set limits that ensures that “a dye will not pose a lifetime risk greater than one cancer in one million people” (Kobylewski, Sarah).
The nine dyes approved for use are, Blue #1, Blue #2, Red #40, Citrus Red #2 (only used to color peels of some Florida oranges and rarely used), Green #3, Orange B (only for coloring sausage casings, not used anymore), Red #3, Yellow #5, and Yellow #6 (FDA). Several petitions have been started to hopefully have the FDA see why these horrific artificial colorings need to be banned. An astonishing amount of the food we consume is processed or artificial. About seventy percent of the diet of an average American is from processed foods. Foods are processed to make them “safe” by removing harmful bacteria and prolonging shelf life. Food dye only makes the food you are consuming worse. Products are only dyed for “decoration”. The dye does absolutely nothing to improve the nutritional quality or safety of the food (CSPI ).
There are several natural alternatives that are safer than food dye. Some alternates include beet juice, paprika, turmeric, carrot juice, and red cabbage. However, “natural” does not always mean it is safe. The colorings Carmine and Cochineal are obtained from Cochineal insects and are known to cause a rare cancer. The United States uses food dye in a large variety of foods. Examples includes Red Dye #40 in McDonald's Strawberry Sundae, and Yellow #6 and Red Dye #40 in orange Fanta. This is often compared to the European Union which has issued a warning label on dyed foods. The label reads, “May have an adverse effect on activity and attention in children”. As a result, most companies in the United Kingdom now use natural and organic colorings.
Eating involves more than just taste. While it may be hard to think about all the foods you may consume with dye, finding better natural foods are very simple. Stores such as Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s are free of food containing any artificial dye. Knowing what we are consuming is very important to our health and especially children's health across the nation. Americans have no idea about the effects of food dye since it is not listed on the nutrition label. Therefore, warning labels need to be placed on food products containing dye. Without knowledge of food dye, America could be poisoned.