Category Archives: Food issues

What to look for – Artificial Coloring

Food coloring spreading on a thin water film i...
Food coloring spreading on a thin water film in the International Space Station. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I was asked by a friend if I could list which products have artificial dyes in them. I am afraid I am not patient enough to go through all the possible food items but will give some good links to the info that I have read on the effects and dangers of food additives, in particular artificial colorings.

I have always thought of myself as a fairly healthy eating kind of person, but have found, instead, that through the years and the “need” for convenience I have allowed many convenience foods into our home and diet. When I started giving artificial dyes the boot, I found I had to be aware of the different types of dyes, which ones were the “worst” and then look on every single ingredient list on every single food item if it were not from the produce department itself. Even then, did you know that oranges are dyed? The peel anyways.

Wikipedia has a great little rundown of the basics. Go there first. I would highlight that synthetic colors are made from petroleum and coal tar. That alone makes me go…wha? Also, in bold they list dyes that are the known suspects to cause behavioral issues. Namely, Blue No.1, Red No. 40 (which is used in most of the candy etc out there), Yellow No.5 (tartrazine) and Yellow No. 6.

Personally, if a food has “artificial coloring/dyes” listed I just say no. Oh, I have used tomato soup (which surprisingly does use coloring) and ketchup occasionally and it seems to be ok, but to be safe, I limit them.

The list of foods that contain the “bad dyes” is seemingly endless. I have found them in potato chips, chocolate cake mixes, noodle mixes, cereal, “natural” juices, fruit snacks, jams and jellies and those are the things that didn’t seem obvious to me like Jello and Kool-Aid.

Interestingly, artificial food dyes have been banned in many European countries. In fact, I read that the United States must make it’s products with natural food colorings if it exports them to Great Britain. I cannot remember where I read that but will be looking for it to link up here.

If you would like to cut artificial food coloring from your diet my advice is to be familiar with the different names for the dyes and look at the labels. It’s a lot of work but trying to KEEP it out is even more difficult. As I mentioned in the last post, schools, churches and other people’s’ houses are all littered with it. I cannot control everything that goes into my children’s’ mouths so I just grin (not) and bear the behavior when we know it’s been ingested. If I don’t know it’s been consumed, I am sure to find out with all sorts of behaviors. Like I mentioned yesterday, I didn’t even know that my 8 yr old had consumed it until I asked her after a rash of craziness. I told her that I knew she didn’t want to be like that and that it’s one of the big reasons we are eliminating colors from our diets. She seemed to (try and) understand.




Getting rid of Artificial Dye

The Food Coloring
The Food Coloring (Photo credit: Matthew Bland)

Yes, it’s the mother of all that is cruel in a child’s life…to take away artificial colorings. Afterall, aren’t those shiny red candies the BEST ones? Isn’t that too-red-for-words juice at the potluck table the only thing that will quench thirst? Even if I did bring a natural juice that tastes BETTER.

Yes, I am a cruel heartless mother who has taken her kids off of dyes. The damage has been done, and my little Aspie thinks it’s the end of the world. He thinks that red dye makes food tastier. Mmm hmmm….

It just may be the end of the world, because the word artificial is on every food label there could be! I haven’t even uttered a word about taking all artificial everything out of our diets yet, but it’s coming. Oh yes, the days is coming.

But let’s deal with the really bad food dyes, shall we? A plethora of research has been done (google it if you want, I don’t have the chutzpah to do it tonight and link it) to show how these food dyes have infiltrated our diets and a ton of foods you would never think would be littered with them, are.

What they cause are behavior issues, to start. This is what I deal with in my family. This is what I will talk about. Artificial food coloring have also been linked to cancer among other things. But behaviors are what I’m talking about.

In our family, we have one Aspie. Aspie children have behaviors that are a little more bizarre than the usual kid on the street. They may say things out of the blue that don’t really have relevance. He may concentrate on a particular subject for YEARS. He may cry after a frustrating go at something. He may be afraid to use the phone because it puts him in an awkward social situation that he can’t predict or script. Sensory issues bring out ticks, uttering that doesn’t make sense or doggie noises. Anxiety is a trigger for a lot of everything.

As he grows older and more mature these behaviors are becoming less and less pronounced overall unless, and I say unless as a foreshadowing…we have food dyes. Yes, I said it. I’ve noticed the difference myself. From a calm, caring, focused (for him), easy to redirect child, comes a hyper, bounce around the house, and impossible to redirect child. He’s bouncy bouncy bouncy. And while this would seem healthy as an exercise, it’s not particularly helpful when trying to complete schoolwork at home. He starts talking NONSTOP. This is a child who is conversational (one-sided, mind you) to a fault. He loves to talk, but after consuming dyes, he is a run-on sentence. Run-on sentences said at a speed no one could track is exhausting to the listener. All this said while bouncing.

We know how to partay! ahem.

then there is my second oldest who, bless her beautiful heart, reacts to Red 40 by becoming  ruthless assassin. She is smart as a whip and beautiful to boot, but infused with that deadly chemical anyone who looks at her the wrong way gets a full throttle beating, if you know what I mean. The claws come out. It gets ugly, fast. This is a recent (last wee and this week) observation as we had Valentines (can we say red and pink candy galore?), then she snuck a red candy yesterday and I figured it out only after a rash of karate moves to unsuspecting victims. Oh, perhaps they had it coming to them at some point, but that was not the case here. I totally called it and she confessed. I had no idea at the time of the exasperated conversation, that I was right, but knew she was eyeballing a candy from her sister’s stash that had RED 40 written all over it’s pretty red flower face. And she had taken that candy despite my earlier “NO!” to her.

So then,  the youngest two. I have just kept them away because we are staying away from it as a family. I am trying to have a healthier menu overall. My third child, has had some behavioral issues in the past, but is coming around nicely. I need to track his behavior when he’s been around the dastardly chemical enhancer. So far, the oldest two have kept me busy when something has been ingested so I’ll have to pay more attention to the younger two.

It is when they have functions at school, church or at friend’s houses that I can’t control what they eat. My one son (ironically, the one that doesn’t seem prone to behavioral outbursts at the time) kept himself from eating any of the food/candy that had dye in it on Valentines, in his class. So proud of him! He may be self-regulating himself that way and that is terrific!

How to keep them away from it for those times when I’m not with them, though. OY!

Any ideas on this from experienced parents?