Food Dye or Food Die? | Teen Ink

Food Dye or Food Die?

April 27, 2017
By jxordan BRONZE, Houston, Texas
jxordan BRONZE, Houston, Texas
1 article 0 photos 12 comments

People tend to “eat with their eyes as much as with their mouths”, and this is certainly the case when we are dealing with color. From commercials, to a billboard, brands and stores urge us to buy their goods. Vivid colors and images draw our attention as we walk down the aisles of the grocery store. What might not be so attractive is knowing that some of the colors you see, are linked to harmful effects. Most parents don’t check the ingredients when they are grocery shopping and are unaware of what is actually being consumed by their child. Parents should be more concerned about their child’s health and should always check to see if a food product contains dye. Warning labels should be placed on food products that contain food dye.


Sales of food across the United States are successful due to good marketing and strategic advertising. Consumers prefer that the color of food matches its flavor. Most people would not want to eat blue cheetos or green ketchup. The link between color and taste is logical. We expect orange-colored drinks to be orange flavored and purple-colored drinks to be grape flavored. Most colorful items are aimed toward children. This manipulates parents into buying dyed products without knowing what they are feeding their kids.

Manufacturers originally used coal tar in the formula and now use petroleum in dyes. Over 15 million pounds of dye are used annually and in the early 1970s it was observed that chemicals in food dye can trigger symptoms of hyperactivity and inattention in children. The hypothesis generated great interest among researchers and parents. Over half a million kids could be experiencing behavioral reactions from food dye. The Food and Drug Administration has since then acknowledged the public that “data suggests behavioral reactions may be due to exposure to synthetic color additives”.

Hyperactivity and ADHD are not the only effects of food dyes; Cancer is also a high concern. This was brought to some consumers attention when manufacturers tested the dye Red #3 in 1990. The dye was concluded to contain carcinogens (cancer causing substance in the tissue). There was also a possible cancer concern in Yellow 5 and 6. The two dyes were thought to contain Benzidine. The International Agency for Research on cancer determined benzidine as a carcinogen in 2001. Most companies along with the FDA are aware of what is in the dye but don't want to hurt “business”. The FDA even set limits that ensures that “a dye will not pose a lifetime risk greater than one cancer in one million people” (Kobylewski, Sarah).

The nine dyes approved for use are, Blue #1, Blue #2, Red #40, Citrus Red #2 (only used to color peels of some Florida oranges and rarely used), Green #3, Orange B (only for coloring sausage casings, not used anymore), Red  #3, Yellow #5, and Yellow #6 (FDA). Several petitions have been started to hopefully have the FDA see why these horrific artificial colorings need to be banned. An astonishing amount of the food we consume is processed or artificial. About seventy percent of the diet of an average American is from processed foods. Foods are processed to make them “safe” by removing harmful bacteria and prolonging shelf life. Food dye only makes the food you are consuming worse. Products are only dyed for “decoration”. The dye does absolutely nothing to improve the nutritional quality or safety of the food (CSPI ).


There are several natural alternatives that are safer than food dye. Some alternates include beet juice, paprika, turmeric, carrot juice, and red cabbage. However, “natural” does not always mean it is safe. The colorings Carmine and Cochineal are obtained from Cochineal insects and are known to cause a rare cancer. The United States uses food dye in a large variety of foods. Examples includes Red Dye #40 in McDonald's Strawberry Sundae, and Yellow #6 and Red Dye #40 in orange Fanta. This is often compared to the European Union which has issued a warning label on dyed foods. The label reads, “May have an adverse effect on activity and attention in children”. As a result, most companies in the United Kingdom now use natural and organic colorings.

Eating involves more than just taste. While it may be hard to think about all the foods you may consume with dye, finding better natural foods are very simple. Stores such as Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s are free of food containing any artificial dye. Knowing what we are consuming is very important to our health and especially children's health across the nation. Americans have no idea about the effects of food dye since it is not listed on the nutrition label. Therefore, warning labels need to be placed on food products containing dye. Without knowledge of food dye, America could be poisoned. 

Similar Articles


This article has 16 comments.

on May. 17 2017 at 3:21 pm
LordWich BRONZE, Houston, Texas
2 articles 0 photos 6 comments
The companies just have to bribe the three branches into being quiet. The power of money will stop others from disrupting their companies. Nothing will change even if people speak out against it.

ThuNguyen said...
on May. 17 2017 at 1:54 pm
ThuNguyen, Houston, Texas
0 articles 0 photos 11 comments
It's kind of scary when you of it that way; we don't usually know whats going in our food. Who knows they could be poison in it without us knowing.

StyLish said...
on May. 17 2017 at 1:53 pm
0 articles 0 photos 10 comments
The information that you provided is shocking! I never knew that food dyes can cause cancer. Companies add dye to their product to make them more appealing. I'm glad that you covered this topic.

Xdragon said...
on May. 17 2017 at 1:50 pm
0 articles 0 photos 13 comments
All my life, I never really thought about what makes our food attractive, but after reading this, it kind of scares me and makes me want to check the nutrition fact in every food I eat.

on May. 17 2017 at 1:41 pm
Oswaldo_Ponce BRONZE, Houston, Texas
1 article 0 photos 11 comments
Many things that we eat have some time of food dye/coloring and you can't really tell because it seems like its original. Many things say that they have a flavor like a lime popsicle and it really isn't flavored with lime, it just has a lime color dye on it to make it seem like it does have a lime flavor.

on May. 17 2017 at 1:03 pm
PeterCao BRONZE, Houston, Texas
1 article 0 photos 14 comments
Most Americans either don't look at the ingredients or don't bother to find out what the ingredients are. This is probably one of the reasons why food dye is a problem.

on May. 17 2017 at 12:04 pm
1LonelyRose BRONZE, Houston, Texas
1 article 0 photos 16 comments
i THOUGHT ABOUT THIS YESTERDAY! I was at home and my sister brought in a grape Popsicle and I realized that grape flavoured stuff isn't really GRAPE flavoured.

on May. 17 2017 at 10:45 am
0 articles 0 photos 10 comments
Many of the foods I eat contain food dye and I know it is unhealthy, but they taste so good, which is what I think many people can relate to.

nango said...
on May. 17 2017 at 10:35 am
nango, Houston, Texas
0 articles 0 photos 15 comments
Food dye is appealing to many people and it is unhealthy for the body . People don't probably realize that candy is harmful, but they do realize that it probably tastes good.

lynnsnguyen said...
on May. 17 2017 at 10:22 am
lynnsnguyen, Houston, Texas
0 articles 0 photos 9 comments
I never realize how what we see affects what we want to eat. Wow! Although I would have to agree, that the color in food make it very appealing to the eyes so you would want to eat it.

ASLanguage said...
on May. 17 2017 at 10:20 am
ASLanguage, Houston, Texas
0 articles 0 photos 15 comments
Americans overlooks what food dye has to offer. Some ingredients inside food dyes are considered to be chemicals and processed. People usually don't know what is inside them because they are only appealed to the colors, not ingredients.

K.Dang said...
on May. 17 2017 at 10:18 am
K.Dang, Houston, Texas
0 articles 0 photos 10 comments
LOL I never realized how food color correlates with the flavor so much, but maybe it's just what we naturally expect. For example, the citrus flavor comes from fruits that are orange, and some grapes are purple, so if we see food where the color doesn't match the flavor, it's out of the ordinary and is unappealing.

LanTo BRONZE said...
on May. 17 2017 at 10:15 am
LanTo BRONZE, Houston, Texas
1 article 0 photos 14 comments
I agree because people tend to find foods that have a certain color (that match their description) more appealing, while other foods that have this weird color to be less appealing. Therefore, many people are being manipulated (just like you said).

Sugars said...
on May. 17 2017 at 10:14 am
Sugars, Houston, Texas
0 articles 0 photos 14 comments
I agree with Kimberly. "Therefore, warning labels need to be placed on food products containing dye. Without knowledge of food dye, America could be poisoned." Although you said that they could be poisoned, I'm pretty sure that its not being shown or proof of it been poisonous or dangerous to humans.

on May. 17 2017 at 10:05 am
Carsafety BRONZE, Houston, Texas
1 article 0 photos 14 comments
I agree with Kimberly and her points but also it may be one of the most effective food ingredients

on May. 17 2017 at 10:01 am
KimberlyNgo BRONZE, Houston, Texas
1 article 0 photos 14 comments
Food dyes don't get enough recognition on how dangerous they are. Americans overlook the ingredients in their food.