The Dangers of Artificial Food Coloring

Updated on February 26, 2018

Red, yellow, blue, lake, FD&C, 5, 4, 40. You're probably aware of the fact that artificial food coloring is bad for you, or at least that it's not good for you. Real chefs refuse to use it. Some countries like Norway ban some of them. Do you know why?

In studies in which rats were given doses of artificial food coloring versus a placebo and then placed in a maze, it was found that the rats were hyperactive and had difficulty staying on task and retaining attention (see link to study in Additional Sources below: "Potential Health Hazard", 2011 Kamel & El-lethey). This is interesting because, as a lot of brightly colored snacks have lots of sugar as well as artificial color, people blame the sugar alone for hyperactivity. However, the coloring itself may have something to do with this as well. Some parents have concluded this on their own from observations at home, too. The colorings will worsen one's inability to pay attention if he or she already has trouble, such as with ADD or ADHD, so keep that in mind.

Additionally, other studies have found that artificial colorings may lead to rashes, asthma, or even tumors! Egad!

Do you know what petroleum is? Well, that's what artificial colors are made of, in addition to acetone and coal tars. Ew. These colors are approved by the FDA, too.

Unfortunately, children are often the most vulnerable to artificial color not because their bodies are still developing, but also because their snacks and desserts are the most likely to have artificial color, such as fruit snacks or that weird green ketchup.

Thankfully, it may not be too late for many people, who can stop eating food with artificial colors and try to cleanse their bodies of the chemicals. If you just keep eating them, they'll keep building up, and you'll never get better.

It's pretty easy to avoid foods with artificial color, whether you're looking at the label or at the unnatural tint of your food. Remember, however, that some bright colors are natural, such as the red from beets or the orange from carrots (carotene). Use common sense in locating unnatural colors for your health and that of children.

Livestrong has suggested a list of food additives to avoid (just so you know, "FD&C" stands for "Food, Drug, and Cosmetics Act, which mandated the certification of some food color additives):

  • Butylated Hydroxyanisole (BHA) and Butylated Hydroxytoluene (BHT)
  • Sodium nitrate/nitrate
  • Sulfites (sulfur dioxide, sodium sulfite, sodium and potassium bisulfite, sodium and potassium metabisulfite)
  • Potassium bromate
  • FD&C Blue #1
  • FD&C Blue #2
  • FD&C Green #3
  • FD&C Red #3 (Erythrosine)
  • FD&C Yellow #5 (Tartrazine)
  • FD&C Yellow #6
  • Monosodium glutamate (MSG)
  • Aspartame

Questions & Answers


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      • profile image

        cookiepower321 4 years ago

        i am never eating a piece of cake, skittles, bananas ever again

      • beatmakersnet profile image

        Tyler Gierke 4 years ago from Chicago IL

        I don't really understand the need for so much food coloring these days.

      • profile image

        girl 5 years ago

        wow u con get cancer????

      • profile image

        Shaz 5 years ago

        Hi few days ago I ate sweet rice at my friends house she had added excessive amount of food colouring since then I hav had an itchy body including my face and a burst of tiny spots I hav taken piriton but no change any suggestions?

      • profile image

        Donna R 5 years ago

        Alarmist. Rats are not humans. Test results on rats do not mean humans will react the same way.

        Colours have been added to food for 1000's of years and humans have been living with food dyes for the same length of time. Just like a small number of people re-act to cat hair, some can re-act to food colourings.

        Scientists have not been able to reproduce consistent test results to support a link between food colourings and chronic diseases as you've claimed (tumors). There is not a single case of a cancer related human death that can be even remotely linked to food dyes.

        Do you or your readers own a car or ever travel in one? Have you ever travelled in a car with your kids? Every single time you travel in a car your life is at significant risk. Yet most of us do it without thinking about it a whole lot...and we keep on doing it. It really does boggle my mind how anyone could be quite happy to drive a car on a daily basis which poses serious risk to life and limb, but then spends time worrying about how the strawberry yoghurt gets its colour? Oh, and maybe car manufacturers have some kind of deal with the hospitals & morgues for repeat business.

        Honestly...there are far bigger dangers to your health than food dyes.

      • profile image

        Gerri B. 5 years ago

        It's rediculous what's in our food!!! My generic allergy meds had blue dye in it. It's a white pill. So had to switch to Zyrtec which has no dyes.

      • glassvisage profile image

        glassvisage 6 years ago from Northern California

        Thank you for sharing! dave, I can't believe they put that in those vitamins - no reason to! Maybe the vitamin and dye companies are in it together :P

      • profile image

        dave 6 years ago

        My wife is pregnant and her prenatal vitamins have RED 40 .

        This a a huge eugenics program being built around us.

        Why in the world would you put that in prenatal vitamins.

        research John P.Holdren . He is the science tzar in office now ,who Obama put in office. John P.Holdren wrote a book in 1977 called "ECOSCIENCE" he writes in the book about drugging the water ,food and vaccines to control population growth. This world is MAD!

      • profile image

        Totianna 6 years ago

        Food dyes is so bad for you

      • glassvisage profile image

        glassvisage 6 years ago from Northern California

        Good question! There are a lot of natural alternatives to food coloring. I added a new link I found with some ideas!

      • profile image

        raaa 6 years ago

        What are the color subsitutes that would be safe to use and how to use it? Kids love to colorful stuff.

      • profile image

        Mimib 6 years ago

        Anything is ok in moderation. I try to stay away from this stuff as much as possible but theres no way to cut out artificial colors entirely. They're in almost everything. And I doubt they're totally to blame for kids hyperactivity.

      • profile image

        Bhaskar 6 years ago

        Is it too late...and how long does food color stay in the body ?

      • profile image

        nesa 6 years ago

        food coloring is my title of my speech,and now i`m shoked by this dangerous additive that we use a lot every day

      • profile image

        CRISTINE 6 years ago

        Wow. Thanks for the information. This really should be known by everyone especially parents before its too late.

      • profile image

        Nathan G.S 6 years ago

        Whoa,artificial coloring is really dangerous!

        And the cake looks delicious! :)

      • profile image

        H. M. Eck 6 years ago

        Agree, agree. No artificial anything. How do they get away with it if it's bad for us and our children?

      • profile image

        tyrese 6 years ago

        Wow i did not think food colouring could be so bad for you...

      • profile image

        Cydnie 6 years ago

        I was just trying to find a way to color play doh for my little guy without using food coloring (I'm assuming the coloring in play doh is not safe). I cannot figure out if there is a brand of coloring or a way to color homemade play doh safely! If there is, can someone post some suggestions? I read you can use fruit somehow. I'm hoping there may be a way to color things safely since everything seems to go in there mouths!

      • profile image

        Jeshan 6 years ago

        Very informative. Thank you!

      • glassvisage profile image

        glassvisage 6 years ago from Northern California

        Thank you for the comments! Sources cited!

      • profile image

        Skeptic 6 years ago

        Most of the things you listed are not colors

        Please cite sources

      • camdjohnston12 profile image

        camdjohnston12 7 years ago

        Thanks for knowing this. Very informative article.

      • profile image

        Gigi 7 years ago

        I have a son with ADHD who gets no FD&C colors in his diet...he bounces off the walls after ingesting it.

      • profile image

        pizzagirl 7 years ago

        wow people should really read this and belive it this is true ppl!

      • profile image

        Olive 7 years ago

        @Greg Wytaske

        Coffee my friend! Get off the unnatural stuff, your body will thank you! Also remember to drink plenty of water.

      • profile image

        Greg Wytaske 7 years ago

        No wonder I can't afford to pay attention... Too much Yellow #5 in my Mountain Dew. I guess I'll have to switch to some other source of caffeine.

      • profile image

        Carrie 7 years ago

        I've found that certain artificial colors will trigger headaches for me. I can think of many things that I've eaten that have either given me a bad headache or a migraine, including skittles, fruit snacks, and certain sodas (not 7up or Sprite, or any of the clear ones). Basically any candy will trigger a headache for me, and I'm starting to find out that I might be allergic to artificial coloring. This isn't a natural product and we should not be eating it!

      • glassvisage profile image

        glassvisage 9 years ago from Northern California

        Thank you all for your comments! Even after this long after making this Hub, the cake still looks disturbing :(

      • Gypsy Willow profile image

        Gypsy Willow 9 years ago from Lake Tahoe Nevada USA , Wales UK and Taupo New Zealand

        Thanks for this, I am getting some friends to read this too.

        Keep up the good work!

      • Lgali profile image

        Lgali 9 years ago

        Very informative.

      • Barbie-Perkins profile image

        Barbie-Perkins 9 years ago from Cincinnati, OH


        Great Hub! Very informative. It's good to know how harmfu food coloring is, especilly to children, and how to avoid it.

        Thanks for sharing. B ~ arbie Perkins 

      • quensday profile image

        quensday 9 years ago from New York

        oh shoot, no more skittles for me :D

      • Rochelle Frank profile image

        Rochelle Frank 9 years ago from California Gold Country

        OH, my! That cake looks dangerous! I touched on this point in my Discussing Distressing Dressings hub. There are a lot of food additives, deemed safe that might be safe for rats, but did anyone ever think what they might do to children?

        Good work-- people need to start paying attention.


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