The Hype About Food Dyes

Food Dyes are in the news right now in a major way.  Since this site is dedicated to children, parents, and child care providers, I wanted to make sure you had this very important information about food dyes and hyperactivity in children. I most recently wrote a blog about it for Nutrition Concierge but it wanted to make sure that everyone in the community had a chance to read it and become educated about the potential dangers of food dyes.  While the FDA did not determine that food dyes had a direct correlation to hyperactivity in children, it is up to you as the parent or child care provider to make HEALTHY food choices for your child.  Please read on!

About two weeks ago, the FDA brought together an expert panel of doctors, scientists, and consumer specialists in Washington to discuss the potential dangers of food dyes. This panel was to determine if there was enough evidence to require food makers to put warning labels on their products, advising consumers that food dyes cause hyperactivity in children. Interestingly, the research was inconclusive in determining whether or not food dyes were causing or perpetuating hyperactivity in children, therefore, they warning label did not pass.  But they did say that eliminating food dyes have shown positive results in children with hyperactivity. The FDA concluded that there needs to be more research done to find this causal association. 

And this is where the consumer can dictate the future of our food products. If there is even the slightest possibility that food dyes may or may not cause hyperactivity in your child, would you still give them something that contains a food dye such as RED 40, YELLOW 5, and BLUE 1? Those ingredients were not what nature intended us to eat. Our bodies were not designed to digest and metabolize chemical products that are showing to possibly cause neurological problems in growing children.  I did read that Frito-Lay is removing food dyes from over 60 of their products (except Doritos and Cheetos - go figure).  Check out their website to see what products they have made "natural" and "healthy".  It's definitely a step in the right direction.

Here are some of my tips for limiting and eliminating food dyes from your diet.

  • READ THE LABEL - Always, always, always read the label. This is my number one suggestion for any processed product you purchase.  Look for food dyes (the ones I mentioned previously).  They are normally the last few ingredients on the list.
  • LESS PROCESSED, THE BETTER - Stick to NATURAL foods from the Earth.  Fruits, Veggies, Whole Grains, Lean Protein, & Health Fats.
  • GO WITH NATURAL COLORINGS - Food manufacturers are starting to trend towards using fruits and vegetables as natural food coloring.  Look for beet juice and carrot juice.  Most commonly used in processed foods.
  • MODERATION - If you or your child wants the green ketchup or the pink donut, have it, but then go back to a healthy, clean diet.  Everything in moderation.  That said, I would still work on completely trying to eliminate artificial food dyes from your diet.
  • COOK REAL - When baking and the recipe calls for food dye, try to substitute with something natural.  Perfect for the upcoming Easter holiday!

One more thing to think about.  The foods that contain food dyes are extremely processed and normally contain a lot of sugar - real and artificial.  Sugar has been known to cause hyperactivity in children.  It will be interesting to see how the research plays out with food dyes and hyperactivity.  Will it be a combination of food dyes and excess sugar consumption?  Stay tuned.

For more information about food dyes and a description of each food dye seen in thousands of products, please go to this website - Center for Science in the Public Interest.

Like I always say...the purer, the better. 

Limit These, Please!

Limit These, Please!


Jill Latham, MS Nutrition, Food Science and Dietetics

Throughout Jill’s life, nutrition, health, and exercise have always been the cornerstones of who she is. After a stint in the entertainment business following college graduation, Jill decided to go back to school to pursue a graduate degree in Nutrition and become a Registered Dietitian. Jill has a Master's of Science in Nutrition, Food Science and Dietetics and is a soon to be Registered Dietitian. Jill truly enjoys encouraging and teaching people how to eat nutritiously and live healthy! During her four years in school, Jill realized how much she liked educating children on the importance of a healthy diet and exercise, which lead her to develop a strong interest in fighting childhood obesity. Honored to be part of as the Nutrition contributor, she looks forward to sharing her knowledge on how to make healthy living a part of everyone’s lives, especially our children. Jill currently resides in Santa Barbara, California with her boyfriend and dog, Madison. She also loves to juice fruits and vegetables on a daily basis and exercise regularly! Please visit Jill’s nutrition, health, exercise, & wellness blog Nutrition Concierge. Jill is Founder and CEO of Vibrant Earth Juices