This article Do synthetic food colors cause hyperactivity? Critics blame the additives for triggering behavioral problems in youngsters was on the front page of the Chicago Tribune on Sunday. I’m happy to see that more people are paying attention to food issues and I’m hopeful that this type of concern is going mainstream.
Last year, I learned about food dyes. Just like a lot of things related to food, I never paid that much attention before this project. Sure, food dyes weren’t good, but once in a while? Okay, fine.
When I started reading labels, I noticed that food dyes were in everything. The spicy cheetos a student brought to school (yes, I read the label). My husband bought a store brand of trail mix and it wasn’t until later I looked at the label. I discovered that Yellow #5 and Yellow #6 were added curiously only to the papaya. And I thought trail mix was “natural.”
The school foods I ate that contained food dyes were some of the fruit “icees” (Red #40, Blue #1), the special occasion cookies (I’m guessing Red #40 and there was a green cookie once too…?), and some of the salad dressings (Yellow #5 & #6). I know that only because those foods either were obviously colored synthetically or the ingredients were listed. I don’t have access to the nutritional information for the foods I ate in 2010 for lunch, so I can’t be sure they weren’t snuck into other things I ate.
Earlier this year, a guest blogger shared her experience as a person who is allergic to Yellow #5. I don’t know how she narrowed it down to that, but I have to wonder how many kids go along undiagnosed with allergies and sensitivities, year after year.
Recently, I bought “olive oil shampoo,” because it sounded natural. I didn’t read the label, but lo and behold, it contains Yellow #5 and Yellow #6, which is less of an outrage considering shampoo is made in a lab and not meant for eating. Still, you can find shampoo without artificial dyes too. It bothers me that my shampoo and the dried papaya my husband bought have the same ingredients…
These dyes have been banned in Europe. Here’s the kicker: US companies with branches in Europe don’t use synthetic food dyes in the products they sell to Europeans. Those same products they sell here? They have the dyes in them. For example, check out this comparison shot of US and UK Nutri-grain bars. I sound like a little old lady school teacher when I say this, but for shame!