Do Moms Know Why Artificial Dyes Are Bad?

It’s no secret that I am not a fan of artificial dyes in food. If you’ve spent any time on my site at all, you may have come across my list of 7 reasons explaining exactly why I hate them. But just in case you missed it (or could use a refresher), here is a little summary:

Artificial food dyes…

  • Are made in a lab with chemicals derived from petroleum.
  • Have been linked to long-term health problems such as cancer.
  • Require a warning label in Europe stating, “may have an adverse effect on activity and attention in children.”
  • Have been shown to cause an increase in hyperactivity in children as well as a negative impact on their ability to learn.
  • Add absolutely no value to the foods we are eating (but do in fact pose risks).
  • Trick your senses.
  • Are contributing to the obesity epidemic by attracting children (and adults) to highly processed food.

But the real question today is this: Is everyone else aware of these concerns, and do they share this same opinion? And how about naturally derived colors. Do moms know they are superior, will they seek them out, and (more importantly) will they pay more for them? Who is with me on this one?

Do Moms Know Why Artificial Dyes Are Bad? from 100 Days of #RealFood

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One of our sponsors (a research company) thought it would be interesting to survey consumers in order to find out, and I am excited to be able to share the results. There were two parts to this research. First, a national survey that was administered to 1,000 U.S. mothers and then another survey where almost 3,000 of you agreed to shed light on this topic as well.

How do the differing populations stack up? Let’s take a look:

Results from 1,000 Mothers Nationally

  • 63% of moms surveyed indicated that they read food labels always (or almost always) before purchasing a food product.
  • 71% of moms would pay more for a product that substitutes naturally derived colors for synthetic ones.
  • 84% feel better and 81% feel safer knowing that their kids eat food containing naturally derived ingredients.
  • 83% of moms wish U.S. food companies would offer more naturally derived options for foods (hint, hint).
  • 72% are more likely to purchase a product with naturally derived colors, even if it’s less colorful than a similar product with synthetic colors.

Do Moms Know Why Artificial Dyes Are Bad? from 100 Days of #RealFood

 Results from 2,763 Readers of 100 Days of Real Food

  • 93% of 100DRF readers read food labels before purchasing a food product most of the time or always (way to go!).
  • 99% feel better and 96% feel safer knowing that their kids eat food containing naturally derived ingredients (so glad to hear this).
  • 99% of the 100DRF moms wish that U.S. food companies wold offer more naturally derived options for foods (let’s hope they’re listening!).
  • 98% are more likely to purchase a product with naturally derived colors, even if it’s less colorful than a similar product with synthetic colors (hard to beat voting with your dollars).

I am so pleased to hear this feedback! I realize that the number of people who took the survey is just a small percentage of our group, but from those who took it, it’s clear that you care deeply about the foods you are feeding your families. As you should!

The survey also showed that our participants cared more about additive content (preservatives, synthetic colors, allergens, GMO ingredients, etc.) than the national mom. 100DRF readers considered those additives the most important factor whereas the average American mom considered the most important factor to be nutritional content (calories, fat, protein, sodium, etc.). As I’ve mentioned before, the nutrition facts label is one of the last things I look at on a box – and for good reason!

Do Moms Know Why Artificial Dyes Are Bad? from 100 Days of #RealFood


So there you have it. I think we’re really making major progress, especially as I see more and more labels pop up in the grocery store that say “naturally derived.” Let’s continue to make our voices heard and vote with our dollars! And if you’re just now starting to make this a priority in your diet (no worries – it’s never too late!), be sure to check out my post on how to avoid aritifical food dyes for help.

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33 thoughts on “Do Moms Know Why Artificial Dyes Are Bad?”

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  1. While I am not saying that it is impossible that food dyes may cause cancer I didn’t find any true upper level research articles supporting this claim in the articles you linked to. Most of the cliams in the CSPI article were links to other articles published by the same group. I simply think it is important to weigh the actual evidence prior to making such hasty claims. A quote from an FDA commissioner is hardly evidence. Like I said . . . I am not saying one way or the other . . . just don’t believe (from the links your shared) that the evidence is there to make this claim.

  2. Assistant to 100 Days (Amy)

    Hi Karen. Thanks, I fixed the typo. As for scientific papers, I do know there is a report out there on a 2007 study commissioned by the British Food Standards Agency that linked food dyes, with increased levels of hyperactivity, ADD and lower IQs in typical/ordinary children. Also, might help, too. ~Amy

  3. Thanks for this awesome post! I’m doing researching on food dyes and this survey result is a valuable info. Do you have any scientific paper on artificial food dyes causing children’s health (ADHD, etc) issues? I couldn’t find any papers only anecdotal cases. (Also, not to be picky, in the first box, “Artificial food dyes….” “Ddd” should be “Add” absolutely no value…)


  4. you don’t mention the use of palm oil in many products, including Starbucks and “environmentally responsible” foods like Luna bars and Kind bars. Palm oil production is destroying the forest habitat in many countries, and particularly impacts the survival of orangutans in the wild.

  5. Hi Lisa,

    What is a wonderful site you have, I found that your article is very helpful. and real time saver when come to food dyes, since i have a site on how to control the gout. i help people with gout from my personal advices, this pieces of knowledge from your site, without a doubt, worth the time to check it out.



  6. Jennifer Little

    I am a Middle School Science teacher and group fitness instructor in Pittsburgh, Pa. I teach a class that shows my 8th graders what is really in the food they are eating, and we research things like artificial food dyes, sweeteners, GMO’s and other scary aspectss of our food system,

    I loved this post and I had my students follow your blog, as well as sign your petition to Kraft on

    At the end of the school year we created our own petition, asking Kellogg’s to remove all artificial food dyes from their products sold in the U.S. The petition is in the early stages but we would love your support and the support of your followers. Your site was a wonderful resource to my students and I use it all the time. Thank you!

    You can watch our petition video and sign at the following link:

  7. I’ve been trying to avoid food dyes for a year now with great success! It hasn’t always been easy (um…relative’s house anyone?), but we try hard not to consume those terrible dyes. Let’s hope they listen and change their ingredients. Fingers crossed! :)

  8. This makes me think of all the ppl who eat that “red velvet” cake. They use a whole bottle of red food coloring in those. Yuck!!

  9. I rarely buy my kids candy but my son has had smarties a hand full of times in his short life. I notice a change in his behaviour instantly. He starts running around the house and jumping off the sofas. He also has this crazed laugh that accompanies the hyper behaviour. Even his teen sisters are freaked out by it. It’s scary!

    1. Check out the Feingold Association. (you can google it.) They have lots of resources for families (like mine) with kids (or adults) with ADHD often brought on or exacerbated by artificial colors (among a few other things).

  10. Worth a try, Birds custard powder. It’s An English product but could be difficult to locate. Apart from the powder, it can also be found in the Instant variety but I found this to be very sweet. The powder, just mix with milk and sugar, more control over the sugar, and can be bought through English Food sites or try Irish shops if you do not have a store that sells English products near you. Some supermarkets do have an International section and you may find it there.

  11. We love banana pudding, but we’ve always used the instant vanilla pudding mix that includes yellow dye :( I would love an alternative if anyone knows of any!

    1. Make homemade vanilla pudding, fill individual bowls with sliced bananas and top with pudding. Vanilla pudding is best eaten warm. Refridgerate any leftovers, note bananas will get brown over time.
      (I use the pudding recipe from the Better Homes & Gardens Cook Book but any basic recipe will do)

  12. I am actually surprised at the numbers from the survey of 1000 mothers nationally. Clearly what people are saying and what people are doing are two different things. If you saw what children bring in for lunch on a regular basis (in an affluent area), you would be disgusted! Typical lunch of the other children includes: a sugary yogurt snack, a cookie or candy bar, maybe a white bread sandwich, chips and an occasional piece of fruit (that I have been told often goes into the garbage). Every time I run into the principal at my child’s school, he comments on my child’s healthy lunch. It is very sad!

  13. Carolyn, yes Whole Foods sells a pack of natural food dyes, they are usually on the baking aisle. They are NOT vibrant in color, but definitely do the job. Quite expensive, almost $20 for the three tiny little bottles but they go a long way, must be refrigerated. I’ve been buying and using them for birthdays and holidays for over two years now, my son loves them!!

    I really do wish there was a way to get through to these companies, or get through to more parents and let them see the truth about food dyes and the harm that they are doing to our children!

  14. I just want to elaborate on the last two points a little. (Tricking your senses and contributing to obesity). I used to work in a bakery and we would use red food coloring more than any other, because it’s been proven through numerous studies to attract people and make them hungry. For example, people are more likely to buy a cupcake decorated with red flowers than yellow flowers. Kids especially are more attracted to vibrantly-colored foods and more likely to eat more of them. I also have a masters degree in marketing and I’ve studied the research – the food industries spends tons of money figuring out the best color combo’s to reel you in!

  15. I agree without the commenter Lisa above. Based on the grocery carts I see in the store and the home-packed lunches I see in the elementary school I teach in, I can’t believe the validity of the general population survey results. Either way, I’m th sass Nichol for sites like 100 Days raising awareness, and hoping to not have to call myself crazy or picky for trying to keep my family healthy in this unusual way.

  16. Do you know of any natural based colors I could use at home? I would like to make colored frostings around the holidays and don’t know what to use. By the way, I can taste some of the dyes now in certain foods, like canned frostings. Ick.

      1. Use gold/yellow beets for orange, too. I’ve done that for my son. If you dry some beet slices in season and dry them, you can use a bread crumb grater to powder them for color later in the year.

    1. I have tried without success to find ways to tint frosting with Christmas shades of red and green for decorating sugar cookie cut-outs. Nothing natural comes close to the artificial Wilton shades. Instead, I switched to making snowflakes and snowmen(dried apricot slices for the carrot nose). I have also found naturally dyed candy cane bits at Whole Foods. For my kids birthday parties, I make cupcakes and decorate with themed paper cupcake toppers available online though Amazon and Etsy.

  17. judging by the amount of “fruit” snacks, go-gurt, and candy I see in school for snacks, birthday treats and in lunches, I’d say, NO, moms DON’T know why artificial dyes are bad.

  18. Is there an app for labels? I know to stay away from things you can not pronounce . New to the whole foods/organic way

  19. My then 5 yr old son’s ADHD type behavior was causing big problems at school and at home. A counselor turned us on to the Feingold diet which elimates food dye, artificial flavor and preservatives. What a blessing. My son was a completely different boy in just one day on the diet. I felt I was meeting my true son for the first time. He’s been on this diet for two years and now has great grades and tons of friends. Feingold has a manual that sites each food product in the grocery stores that is permissible, a restaurant guide, and an enewsletter. Great organization!

  20. How in the world are we still dealing with food additive problems when 83% of the general population wishes they weren’t there? How can our food companies still not get this?

  21. Even though we (DRF) readers know the nutrition labels to be inaccurate, most consumers or those doing the grocery shopping for their family do not. So the fact that a great majority of grocery shoppers check the labels for information is a good sign – people care about whether their family is getting all that they need from the groceries they buy. They also care that they aren’t getting things they don’t need. It should be on the industry and labeling regulations to more accurately describe their foods for the average grocery shopper.