I’ve shared our journey to living a life free of synthetic food dyes, but I realize that, apart from my son with the allergy, it can be unclear why these products are bad and should really be eliminated from our diets – and lives – entirely. There are a multitude of resources out there regarding this topic, so I’ll give you a break down and then some links so you can dig deeper if you so desire.
Synthetic Food Colors are found in just about everything. I talked about it here, but it is in many many things. Add to that the general lack of knowledge of how awful it is, and you’ll find that it’s in ‘natural‘ products, as well. It is completely chemical, made in a lab from petroleum derivatives, and several variations of it have been pulled in the last few decades because they were proven to be carcinogenic or otherwise toxic. Very little testing was done before these lovely things were approved to be put into our food, so many of the side effects weren’t discovered until much later.
As you’ll read in the links below, the UK and several other countries have decided that the benefit of these products (they’re pretty), does not outweigh the many risks of using and consuming them. A European study showed that synthetic colors (specifically Red 40 and Yellow 5 – the two we use the most in the U.S.) caused severe hyperactivity in children. In a double-blind test, the children who were taken off of food dyes showed improved behaviour during the elimination period, and a drastic change once dyes were re-introduced. (I personally attribute the fact that my son skipped the ‘terrible twos’ entirely to artificial food coloring having been out of our diet for the better part of a year.) It’s been shown in other studies that these synthetic dyes cause allergic reactions, and proven in yet more studies to be cancer-causing, neurotoxic, and even to cause chromosomal damage! It’s my personal belief that the increase in the use of artificial dyes (we use 5x the chemical dyes today that we did 50-60 years ago) contributes to a large number of medical, behavioural, and societal issues we face today that were almost non-existent in previous generations.
If you like reading super technical stuff, here is a copy of the actual study done in the UK that initiated their banning/increased labeling standards of synthetic dyes, and here’s a breakdown of what it says.
You can also find some more fun food coloring reading at family gone healthy, kitchen stewardship, red40.com, and a wonderfully enlightening read by Robyn O’Brien at AllergyKids. If you’re a fan of infographics, I’m particularly fond of this one.
The process of eliminating synthetic dyes from our diets has been a fairly arduous one, but I’ve found it to be worth it. If you or your children are suffering from ADD/ADHD, Migraine headaches, Eczema, food allergies, etc., I would encourage you to look at the ingredients in your food and consider that there could be a correlation.