Finding (and Avoiding) Artificial Food Dyes

Artificial food dyes are unfortunately in quite a lot of processed foods. I’ve already shared all the reasons I hate them, but today I want to share the names of the FDA-approved dyes so you can look for (and hopefully avoid) them in food products.

Finding and avoiding artificial dyes - 100 Days of Real FoodNote: This is the “currently approved” list because, unsettling enough, the approval status does change.

The following FD&C color additives are either no longer authorized or restricted for use – that’s right the FDA once thought these seven food dyes were “safe” but have since changed their minds: Green 1, Green 2, Red 1, Red 2, Red 3 (still used in food, but no longer in cosmetics or external drugs), Red 4, and Violet 1. In fact, if you look at food, drugs and cosmetics in total there are 91 different dyes that were once approved and are now no longer authorized or restricted for use.In the UK artificial dyes are allowed for use, but require a warning label stating, “May have an adverse effect on activity and attention in children.” So, as a result, food companies have mostly switched to natural dyes in order to avoid slapping a warning label on their packages.

Even though these dyes are still widely used in the US, I did find this statement on the FDA website, “Exposure to food and food components, including AFC [artificial food colors] and preservatives, may be associated with behavioral changes, not necessarily related to hyperactivity, in certain susceptible children with ADHD and other problem behaviors, and possibly in susceptible children from the general population.” I’d also like to share a link to a really interesting science experiment conducted by a kid who tested the effects of yellow dye in mice. The results are rather astounding…click to see for yourself!

Artificial Dyes Found in Surprising Places

What was once reserved for colorful, celebratory cake frosting is now lurking on almost every shelf in the grocery store. In fact, consumption of food dyes has increased 5-fold since 1955 (up from 3 million to 15 million pounds per year) – 90% of which is from Yellow 5, Yellow 6, and Red 40. This is one of the many reasons why the argument that we grew up eating this stuff and turned out “just fine” doesn’t hold up – processed food has changed (and continues to change) since we were kids. So nowadays unless you shop somewhere like Whole Foods or Earth Fare (supermarkets that don’t allow products with artificial dyes), get ready to do some label reading in order to avoid the above list on your next shopping trip.

Below are some examples where we found artificial food dyes. They are not just found in neon colored beverages and brightly colored candies – all of the following (even including brown cereal, whole-wheat pizza crust, and white icing!) are examples of packaged products that contain artificial dyes:

frosting pic

Pickels Pic

boboli Vitamins Pic

Fiber One Pic


Motrin Pic


Doritos PicOatmeal


life cereal

Have you found artificial dyes lurking in surprising places? Please let us know in the comments below.

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  • Comments

    1. Vycles |

      6 to 7 years ago I got a call in the middle of the night from my frantic sister. Her 1 yr old daughter was screaming and wouldn’t stop. She was having night terrors but looked like she was awake. Besides that, she would turn from this sweet angel to a defiant mean child after having candy. Months later it was discovered that she was having a reaction to Red 40. A short time after that it was discovered that my Mother’s headaches were happening after consuming Red 40.
      So all I knew about any of the “synthetic food dyes” was that Red 40 can be bad because my sister said so.
      4 yrs ago we adopted 3 youngins ages 6, 8, & 9 then. It came to my attention the bad behavior of my youngest boy, DB, after eating at a party, and I remembered “Red 40 is bad”, so I monitored as much of his red, orange, purple intake as I could.
      This year, actually this MONTH it all came to my attention in a FB post of a friend about Red 40 AND Yellow 5 being evil. So I am trying to do my homework and learn the FACTS not myths about the severity, reactions, and the importance of getting rid of, synthetic colored food dyes.
      I’ve read, and thank you everyone for sharing your experiences and such on this matter, blogs and comments on this and other pages. I’ve seen so many different allergic reactions that I have never considered before on these sites and comments of people.
      I was diagnosed with Migraines when I was in the 3rd grade. I have had severe headaches my whole life since. To the point that, in 2006 I was caring for my bed-ridden grandma in our home, and had to stay in my room for 2 months with aluminum foil over the windows, for darkness. She felt like it was her fault and chose to move to a senior-home. “Migraines” would come and go. Sometimes they would last for days, sometimes only hours. Sometimes I would go a month or so without even having one. Sometimes I had one every, or every other day or so.
      All this to say, I believe the headaches to be an effect to the synthetic dyes in our food and products. Since I have cut out all of those dyes that I can from our household, I haven’t suffered from the headaches. Or the fits of rage that I have always suffered with, the rage has only reached it’s ugly head after I have accidentally ingested, or had the colored dyes absorbed through my skin.
      Johnson’s baby lotion (Pink), John Frieda shampoo and conditioner (Red), all of my mouthwashes and toothpastes, and Model Magic (like a playdoh) that the kids and I have loved to play with, ALL have the synthetic food dyes in them made from petroleum. :(
      There are so so so many FOODS that have them in them. Grocery shopping is going to be a challenge next week, but it is too important to not try. :)
      …just for a laugh for you, ya should have been a fly on the wall when my 19 yr old daughter discovered that I threw away all of the marshmallows from the Lucky Charms and then I asked her not to bring the Fruity Pebbles into our home anymore. It was kind of comical. ;)
      Blessings to all!

    2. Jamie |

      I stumbled across your blog in a google search looking for information on food dye allergies. My 18 month old breaks out into rashes and has trouble with sleep whenever he eats something with red40. I am in shock by the number of foods that have dyes in them. Most of these foods I would never have thought of. I couldn’t understand why my little boy got a rash today and then I realized I gave him a pickle!

      Thanks for the info…

    3. Cat Lencke |

      My children are 5 and 3 and I’m searching for pain relief medicines that are dye-free and artificial flavor-free. It seems that Little Remedies only offer their range for infants. Any thoughts?

    4. Elise |

      I was shocked a couple years ago to find food coloring in crescent rolls. I just don’t understand what’s wrong with the color of bread or rolls that they’d need to be alerted.

      Pillsbury® Original Crescents
      PhotosIngredientsNutritionAllergy Info
      Enriched Flour Bleached (wheat flour, niacin, ferrous sulfate, thiamin mononitrate, riboflavin, folic acid), Water, Soybean and Palm Oil, Sugar, Hydrogenated Palm Oil, Baking Powder (baking soda, sodium acid pyrophosphate, sodium aluminum phosphate). Contains 2% or less of: Partially Hydrogenated Soybean Oil, Mono and Diglycerides, Vital Wheat Gluten, Dextrose, Salt, Potassium Chloride, Xanthan Gum, TBHQ and Citric Acid (preservatives), Yellow 5, Color Added, Red 40.

    5. Clair |

      The glucose test drink for diabetes yesterday at Kaiser contained Yellow 6 and Red 40. What pregnant woman wants to drink something toxic orange looking?

    6. Amanda |

      I am trying so hard to eliminate this from my family’s lifestyle. It IS hard, it’s in everything. At our Walmart, you can not buy pickles without food coloring. I checked every single brand. And the ballfield…. can I just say, I HATE GATORAID!

    7. Kimi |

      We have eliminated artificial food dyes from our diets and home. Marshmallows…which means most homemade rice Krispy treats have dyes. Beware of white/vanilla ice cream and vanilla pudding. Buying whole real food eliminates dyes, but when we buy processed food, we typically buy organic to avoid food dyes,

    8. |

      This is so frustrating to me. Red dye send my kids bouncing off the ceiling, and I hate having to be the guy in the grocery store that everyone gets sick of going around because he is reading every label on every product. On the bright side, we have found it pretty easy to eliminate these from our diet…. on to gluten, and all other processed foods!!!

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