What better day to dicuss food dyes than on March 17, when beers, cupcakes, people’s faces and bodies, and the Chicago River (among other things) are dyed green for St. Patrick’s Day? Unfortunately, the truth is that most food dyes aren’t so lighthearted, carefree, and fun-loving. Though we tend to associate them with birthday parties, annual parades, and community bake sales, food dyes can contain some pretty scary ingredients, and can lead to some pretty serious health issues including cancer, allergic reactions, and hyperactivity. (And the dyes are present in a lot of foods you might not expect.) Damn distressing dyes. So I asked our Fearless Foodtrainer, nutritionist Lauren Slayton, exactly what’s so bad about about eating foods that contain dyes, and for ten facts we may not know about these seemingly innocent additives.
Food dyes are pretty. What’s so bad about them?
Healthy eating shouldn’t be complicated, but it is. Many Blisstree readers are savvy label-checkers and know to scan for high fructose corn syrup and trans fats. And if you’re like me, you also avoid artificial sweeteners. Food dyes are little devils lurking in food labels that have been associated with a host of potentially serious health issues, and are cheap ways to make certain foods look better or more appealing. But I’d prefer ugly food to chemical cuisine any day.
What are 10 disturbing facts about food dyes we may not already know?
1. The British Government has discouraged companies to use food dyes and the European Union requires warning labels of most dyed foods.
2. In the U.S., food dyes are innocent until proven guilty. (It took more than 30 years for DDT to be banned.)
3. Many corporations (including Kelloggs and McDonald’s) use safe colorings overseas, but cheaper, synthetic chemicals in their domestic foods.
4. Food dyes are not just in brightly colored foods. Food coloring is used in granola bars, breads, Life cereal, and foods that appear fairly colorless.
5. Food dyes are used in some farmed salmon and certain mustards.
6. You may not see specific colors such as yellow #6 or red #40 listed on labels, but look for “color added” or “artificial coloring added” on labels and you’ll know that dyes do in fact lurk there.