Does your kid eat cupcakes with bright colored frosting? How about colored cereal, drinks or pop tarts? What about lollipops? Many types of processed foods, beverages, and condiments have artificial chemical dyes in them.
Commonly used artificial food colors include:
1. Blue 1 is a bright blue food dye that is commonly used in beverages, dairy products, powders, jellies, confections, condiments, icings, syrups, and extracts. Blue 1 was not found to be toxic in key rat and mouse studies, but an unpublished study suggested the possibility that Blue 1 caused kidney tumors in mice, and a preliminary in vitro study raised questions about possible effects on nerve cells. The dye can also cause hypersensitivity reactions.
2. Blue 2 is a royal blue food dye that is commonly used in baked goods, cereals, snack foods, ice cream, confections, and cherries. Blue 2 cannot be considered safe given the statistically significant incidence of tumors, particularly brain gliomas, in male rats.
3. Green 3 is a sea green food dye that is commonly used in beverages, puddings, ice cream, sherbet, cherries, confections, baked goods, and dairy products. A 1981 industry-sponsored study gave hints of bladder and testes tumors in male rats, but FDA re-analyzed the data using other statistical tests and concluded that the dye was safe. This possibly carcinogenic dye is not widely used.
4. Red 40 is the most widely-used orange-red food dye that is commonly used in gelatins, puddings, dairy products, confections, beverages, and condiments. It may accelerate the appearance of immune-system tumors in mice. The dye causes hypersensitivity reactions in a small number of people and might trigger hyperactivity in children.
5. Red 3 is 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. The evidence that this dye caused thyroid tumors in rats is “convincing,” according to a 1983 review committee report requested by FDA.
6. Yellow 5 is a lemon-yellow food dye that is commonly used in custards, beverages, ice cream, confections, preserves, and cereals. Yellow 5 was not carcinogenic in rats, but was not adequately tested in mice. It may be contaminated with several cancer-causing chemicals. In addition, Yellow 5 causes sometimes-severe hypersensitivity reactions in a small number of people and might trigger hyperactivity and other behavioral effects in children.
7. Yellow 6 is an orange food dye that is commonly used in cereals, baked goods, snack foods, ice cream, beverages, dessert powders, and confections. Yellow 6 caused adrenal tumors in animals. Yellow 6 may cause occasional, but sometimes-severe hypersensitivity reactions. It may be contaminated with cancer-causing chemicals and occasionally causes severe hypersensitivity reactions. The FDA reviewed this data and found reasons to conclude that Yellow 6 does not pose a significant cancer risk to humans.
A research study from the United Kingdom found small increases in hyperactivity in a group of 3 year olds and another group of 8 to 9 year olds when they drank a mix of artificial food coloring. The results of this study compelled the European Food Standards Agency to insist on removal of artificial coloring from food products. The FDA, however, hasn’t changed its opinion on the use of FDA-approved artificial food colors, which it considers safe when used properly. In addition to considerations of organ damage, cancer, birth defects, and allergic reactions, food colorings cause hyperactivity and other behavioral problems in some children. Because of that concern, the British government advised companies to stop using most food dyes by the end of 2009, and the European Union is requiring a warning notice on most dye-containing foods after July 20, 2010.
So, how about that lollipop for little Johnny?