So here it is… the segment that may have you consider passing out non-food items on Halloween even if food allergies weren’t an issue. I am sure we can all agree that the colors of our world are beautiful. No matter where we see them, in nature, clothes, or food, colors are everywhere and we each have our favorites.
This week, I am focusing on the colors of Halloween candy – Red 40, Yellow 5, Yellow 6, Blue1, and Blue 2. Like other food manufacturers, candy companies use these synthetic food dyes for many reasons, but basically, they are used to make the candy more attractive to the consumer. The FDA assures the American citizens that all color additives currently in the US food supply are safe; however, there are plenty of organizations that will argue otherwise, particularly the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) – there are even people who have a food dye allergy, so it makes you wonder how safe it actually is. There is a lot of information out there so, I will present to you some basic facts that can help you decide what to do in terms of synthetic food colorings and your diet. Limit? Avoid? Consume? My own personal opinion, is to keep all the foods you and your family eat as natural as possible and as unprocessed as possible… as often as possible. You can find these food colorings, and others, as ingredients of nearly all processed foods. If you limit your processed foods, you will, as a result, limit artificial food coloring.
Okay, so here we go….
First, what is a lake and what is a dye? For example, sometimes you will read Red 40 Lake in an ingredients list and/or Red 40. What is the difference?
Food Dye Quick Facts:
- Made from Petroleum. Originally made from coal tar
- The main concern is that there is a correlation between food dyes and hyperactivity disorder. There are also issues related to allergic reactions to certain dyes. In addition, several of the dyes contain carcinogens.
- In 2010, the European Union (EU) mandated that all foods containing artificial dyes carry a warning label: may have an adverse effect on activity and attention in children.
- Some of the dyes banned in the EU are currently approved by the FDA and used quite frequently by US manufacturers (Red 40, Yellow 5, and Yellow 6). As a result, many of the products available in Europe and America, despite the same name, manufacturer, etc., have very different ingredients. America’s are synthetic.
- The FDA Food Advisory Committee reviewed food dyes and studies suggesting a relationship with ADHD in 2011. The group stated that there is not enough evidence to support classifying the dyes as unsafe and/or remove them from foods sold in the United States. Nor did the committee think the dangers of food dyes called for a warning on foods.
Natural Coloring: There are still plenty of ways to color foods/candies without using potentially harmful substances. Many manufacturers are beginning to use these ingredients. As always, read the labels. Common natural colorings include: turmeric, saffron, beets, spinach, and carrots.
Where to shop for foods/candies without artificial food dyes:
Your local grocer may carry many products that are dye-free. Read the labels to be sure.
Check your local store for these brands of Halloween Candies:
Resources and further reading:
Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI):
USA Food and Drug Administration (FDA):
UK’s Food Standards Agency (FSA):
International Food Information Council Foundation
So, in short – there is evidence to suggest reasons to avoid food dyes and assurance from the FDA that our food is safe. What to do… My suggestion? Keep it real!
Whatever you decide, just remember… ‘everything in moderation.’
Stay tuned, stay healthy, and stay Pretty In the Peak
Marianne Lindgren, MS, RD