What You Need to Know About Food Dyes: #good #bad #ugly

What was your favorite breakfast cereal as a kid? One of my favorites growing up was Fruit Loops. All the really fun colors and sugary, delicious flavors. Every morning, I looked forward to having my bowl of Fruit Loops. Never once did I consider that my delicious, tasty bowl of cereal had poisonous chemicals. What!?! Yes, that is one of the ugly truths about modern food production. Many of the foods we eat everyday contain very concerning and life altering chemicals. 

 You may be thinking, “how is this possible? I don’t believe it! Isn’t the FDA regulating and protecting us from chemicals and other dangerous ingredients in food? We have on boxes the list of ingredients telling us what is in our foods. It doesn’t say there are chemicals and dangerous toxic ingredients.” 

 Sadly, another ugly truth is that the FDA only requires companies, manufactures and owners of these foods to list 99% of the ingredients. Therefore, that unlisted 1% could be a very chemical, poison or dangerous ingredient we are ingesting.

 Back to my beautiful bowl of colored cereal, how is that bad? Well, as it turns out, all those bright and fun colors are dangerous chemicals known as food dyes. Food dyes or additives, originally derived from coal tar, are complex chemicals now developed from petroleum. Research shows these dyes are not pure chemicals but rather contain a mixture of organic and inorganic compounds. These compounds have been shown to be toxic and raise health concerns such as: carcinogenic causing cancers, genotoxic: damage to chromosomes and neurotoxic: damage to the brain.

 Another head-scratcher, the FDA approves dyes/additives in our foods. Why in the world would they do such a thing?!  Generally, to make our foods look better and be more attractive to us consumers.  The names of the FDA approved food coloring are:  Blue 1 – brilliant blue, Blue 2  indigo carmine, Citrus Red 2, Green 3 – fast green, Red 3 – Erythrosine, Red 40 – allure red, Yellow 5 – tartrazine, Yellow 6 – sunset yellow.

Three of these dyes listed above; Red 4, Yellow 5 and Yellow 6 account for 90% of all dyes used in our foods and all have been shown to increase risk for cancer, allergies, sensitivities, asthma and hyperactivity or ADHD.

 There is some good news. We have seen progress with some of the bigger food manufacturers changing out harmful food dyes and replacing them with safe and natural alternatives.  Thankfully, many consumers are demanding these alternatives to food dyes which is putting pressure on these companies to make these changes. 

In the meantime, the best way to ensure you are not consuming the harmful food dyes is to:

  • Be educated on the food dyes
  • Read the ingredients labels on foods
  • Make your own recipes eliminating any risk of harmful chemicals
  • Eat organic and unprocessed foods
  • Choose Non-Genetically modified foods (non-GMO)

And, bottom line, if you have any doubts or are not sure, choose something you know is safer. 

The first step is understanding what is in our foods: the good, the bad and the ugly.  Having this knowledge will go a long way to making things much better for you, your family, loved ones and those affected by ASD. 

 Be aware, candy is another food product with an over-abundance of dyes and chemicals. With Halloween is just around the corner, do your research and let’s make it dye-free for everyone!


Marikay Cuthill is mother of Maci, a vibrant, curious 13-year-old on the Autism Spectrum, and the founder of Maci And Pebble, a community dedicated to helping people navigate autism by finding answers, direction and peace of mind. Learn more at www.maciandpebble.com


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