This post will cover the reasons to avoid artificial food coloring. What is food coloring and why is it in our food?
Setting aside first the health implications of ingesting artificial food coloring, it's important to question the use of these colorings to trick the eye and stimulate the palette. If the food in question were fresh, real, and nutritious, chances are it would not need any help in the color department. Usually the foods which have been colorized are processed foodstuffs (think colored cereal loops, gelatin desserts, iced cookies and electric orange cheese pasta) and the artificial coloring isn't the only item in the list of ingredients that ought to be avoided.
So what are the health implications of ingesting artificial food coloring?
"Food coloring is used to make certain foods have a more uniform color, to simulate the color of fruits and vegetables that aren't actually in the food, and in many foods that are targeted at kids to make them more fun looking.
Commonly used artificial food coloring agents include:
Blue 1, a bright blue food dye that is commonly used in beverages, dairy products powders, jellies, confections, condiments, icings, syrups, and extracts
Blue 2, royal blue food dye that is commonly used in baked goods, cereals, snack foods, ice cream, confections, and cherries
Green 3, a sea green food dye that is commonly used in beverages, puddings, ice cream, sherbet, cherries, confections, baked goods, and dairy products
Red 40, an orange-red food dye that is commonly used in gelatins, puddings, dairy products, confections, beverages, and condiments
Red 3, a cherry-red food dye that is commonly used in cherries in fruit cocktail and in canned fruits for salads, confections, baked goods, dairy products, and snack foods - made from coal tar and could be carcinogenic
Yellow 5, a lemon-yellow food dye that is commonly used in custards, beverages, ice cream, confections, preserves, and cereals - made from coal tar, people with aspirin sensitivity made not tolerate it and is a bad choice for people with frequent asthma
Yellow 6, an orange food dye that is commonly used in cereals, baked goods, snack foods, ice cream, beverages, dessert powders, and confections"
Above are the artificial colorings which are permitted in food by the FDA as of 2007. They are often also used in cosmetics which are absorbed by the skin. Artificial food colorings are made from petroleum chemicals or coal tar and are not designed to be ingested by humans.
The Feingold Association has collected extensive research on the effects of artificial food coloring and believes that avoiding artificial additives, such as coloring, can reduce the incidence of behavioral and/or learning disabilities such as ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder), ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder), OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder). Rather than medicating a child for hyperactivity and lack of focus, removing known irritants from the diet is a natural and safer solution.
In the store, look for more natural versions of the processed products you wish to eat which may use natural colorings instead of artificial ones. It's best if the ingredient label lists the actual natural colorings (such as caramel coloring, annatto, chlorella algae, cochineal(insect), betanin (beets), turmeric, saffron, paprika, or elderberry juice) rather than the ubiquitous "natural coloring" non-specific catch-all phrase.
If you enjoy cooking with coloring, there are many sources for natural dyes such as NaturesFlavors.com.
When you choose a real, whole food diet, most of these additives are naturally avoided. It can be particularly challenging with children in the house, but it is worth your extra effort to avoid letting these chemicals into their precious bodies and brains. The food industry has perfected the art of marketing to children and an inordinate number of children's food/foodstuff (think "fruit" chewies, superman ice cream, birthday cakes) contains bright colors which are particularly dangerous to their small, developing bodies.
I have witnessed (with horror!) my angelic daughter turn into a monster with the help of one red lollipop in about three minutes. It's all the evidence I needed to know that food coloring (especially combined with refined sugar or HFCS) is best avoided.
Read your labels!! Live Light, xo-C.
If you are reading this post by email or social media, please click here to access this post on my blog if you wish to make a comment. I'd love it if you would! Do you have any stories about how you or a loved one has been effected by artificial food coloring or how that person's life is now different since avoiding the toxic additive?