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 Food

Note: 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
lunchable
Motrin Pic
Crystal-Light
Doritos Pic
Oatmeal
yoplait
life cereal

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

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323 thoughts on “Finding (and Avoiding) Artificial Food Dyes”

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  1. Cheese…until recently I thought it was natural that cheddar cheese was suppose to be orange! It’s scary where dyes and chemicals are added.

  2. Children’s form of liquid Amoxicillin also has RED Dye #40 in it. This is how we found out that my son has a reaction to all RED Dye #40! We now do not have anything in our house with RED Dye #40. It is unbelievably scary how many food products have it.

  3. Artificial ingredients (dyes, flavorings, preservatives, etc.) across the board are just bad news. We avoid anything artificial for our sons due to my youngest aspirin allergy and salicylate sensitivity. We have to be careful with certain plastics and other materials due to the salicylate sensitivity. This includes water toys, seat belts, the elastic in any clothing, etc. He develops body hives, facial swelling and throat swelling when his body reaches it’s limits of salicylates (they can remain in your system for up to 48 hours). Anything including toothpastes (my boys use a line of Tom’s that’s safe for him to use and for my older son who has a gluten sensitivity), shampoos/body washes (they use Shea Moisture, it’s been around since 1912) and for my oldest I just picked up some deoderant, to have on hand for when he does need it (a Kiss My Face that’s gluten free), though my husband thinks it’s going to be a while because they eat so clean.

    My son will have a reaction if someone kisses his cheek with lipstick on. Dyes and my son do not mix.

    The great thing is, you can make just about any food you want from scratch. It’s just that time investment that not everyone has.

  4. I was giving my daughter a bath and put in the Elmo dissolving bath fizzes. They turn bath water colors. I have been focusing so much on artificial coloring in foods, I never thought to look into other items, but they did contain red, blue, and yellow artificial colors!? That is getting absorbed into our children’s skin, the largest organ, and going right into the bloodstream. Infuriating!!!!

    1. That’s not really true. The skin’s job is to protect us by being a BARRIER. Some things circumvent that, but it depends on solubility, concentration, duration and other factors. A child in a bath with colored fizz (low concentration, notice they don’t stain the tub) probably absorb less than a child coloring with a marker, which likely still isn’t anything detectable. The pharmacology industry has had to work hard to get patches to work to deliver meds and that’s high concentration and duration.

  5. I’ve been cracking down on artificial colors after finally realizing just how sensitive my 10 y.o. Is. We mostly cook from scratch, but there are still outside sources of foods and candies. My first clue with her was when her skin got terribly rashly after switching shampoo. What sealed the deal is when she went to a “jell-o bowl” activity. After she put her hands in a bowl of jell-o they immediately had a bad case of eczema covering both hands to her wrists. I was appalled before at what goes into our food and health products, but this has driven it home. Thank you for a very relevant article!

  6. Just this morning I found “India Tree Nature’s Colors Decorating Set Created with Vegetable Colorants Red, Yellow, Blue” at Great Harvest Bread. I couldn’t get a good picture of the package, so here are the ingredients

    Blue: Glycerin, vegetable juice, deionized water.
    Red: Beet juice, citric acid
    Yellow: Glycerin, turmeric, deionized water.

    Couldn’t believe my eyes when I spotted these…so exciting!

    1. We’ve been using India Tree colors for about 6 months. The red is a little dull, but my 6 yr old is so happy we can decorate and eat cupcakes with colors now! Keep the dyes in the fridge for longer life. :)

      1. Beets. It’s concentrated from beets. You can chop, boil, and puree up a beet and sub out 1:1 for oil (and save the water to add to the mix too! Or freeze in an ice cube tray and save for smoothies) for a very vibrant burgundy.

  7. Marshmallows (the colored ones, obviously, but the white ones have fake Blue.)
    Non-fat cream cheese.
    Almost all Pillsbury dough products
    Shelf-stable and frozen juices (especially the blended flavors)
    Frozen “Blue”berry waffles
    Pretty much every medication. Either the pill is colored, or there is an identifier printed on in fake colors. (Benadryl, Mylicon, Tylenol, Advil, Zyrtec and a few others make dye-free children’s liquids, but they all have fake flavors, which can also contain petrol-derived ingredients. Only there’s no way to know for sure!)

    1. Medications are almost completely synthetic. I have no problem with a few more synthetics to make it go more “appealing” and more likely to go down. Teach your kids to take pills, or ask for pills and crush them (or open them). Many older antibiotics and OTC pain pills are OK to crush. I know 2 people who were given natural liquid med as children-once each. One took years to learn to tolerate honey because that’s what their’s was sweetened with, the other still won’t eat anything with mollassas (the sweetener for hers), so in my book, if you must, bring on the artificials! Cathy

      1. The problem is that if the colors and flavors in the medicine for her infection causes her to have night terrors, uncontrolled screaming fits during the day (where she is unable to communicate or do the most basic things, until it’s blown over,) and prevents her from being able to fall asleep at night, it’s not really a good “cure.”

        Pills are not necessarily dye-free either. Many all-white pills are made brighter with the addition of Blue dyes. For her allergy medication, the children’s liquid has artificial flavor, which could be petrol-derived, and the pills have Blue. I have to pay 5 times more for the brand-name, which happens to not have artificial colors, but that is not the case with all medicines.

      2. That’s true but generally pills have less dyes. They are colored and shaped to improve safety and made large enough to manage. Have you ever tried to help an older person organize all their pills? Thank goodness they have some differences. One thing to talk with your Dr and pharmacist about is using meds in their IV solution form. More pure then, but nasty. Of course again most meds are synthetic so if your child reacts to most synthetics then they might react to most meds as well.

      3. The reason kids are reacting to these ingredients is that they’re petrol-derived. All the artificial food dyes, some flavors (impossible to know which, since they’re all labeled “flavor added” or “artificial flavors,”) and the preservatives BHA, BHA, and TBHQ. Not all kids react to all the dyes and/or other petrol ingredients. But to many that do, even the tiny amount of color on the markings can trigger a reaction. It’s not a quantitative reaction in most kids. It’s more of a pass/fail. The severity of the reaction may vary though. But I don’t feel safe feeding my child something that negatively affects her BRAIN.

        This isn’t like lactose intolerance, where we can choose to have a gassy and tummy-crampy night to have ice cream. This causes behavioral changes that often result in the child losing control of their own behavior. My daughter used to have random screaming fits, where all she could do was sit there screaming “NO!” over and over. If there were objects near her, she would throw them, and if you touched her she would become a whirling dervish of fists and feet. She couldn’t respond cognitively to questions. (“Do you want me to stay?” NO! “Would you like me to go away?” NO! etc.) She was unable to perform basic tasks during these fits and her night terrors/night wakings. She literally COULD NOT get up out of bed and walk to us if she woke up. She couldn’t even grasp her sippy cup of water by the side of the bed. But I had to sit through 10-15 minutes of screaming to get to where she could even tell me that’s what she wanted.

        And the most painful part for me is that she KNOWS she’s not in control. One time, she was able to pick up a little door hanger she had made at school, where one side said something like “stay out” and the other said “come in and play.” She looked at both sides and handed it to me with the “come in and play” side up, but couldn’t stop screaming “NO!” She wanted me to know she needed me, but couldn’t tell me. I will never intentionally risk her feeling like that ever again, unless it were a life-and-death situation.

        This little girl, at 4 years old, decided that she didn’t like that feeling, and is voluntarily complying with our artificial-free diet. She won’t eat anything out of my presence without asking if it has “no fake colors and no fake flavors.” And she often just refuses their snack in favor of the one I packed for her, even if the teacher says it IS safe. She gladly traded in all her Halloween booty. She was even worried that the Easter Bunny and Santa would bring her stuff that wasn’t safe, and made me check each item first. We throw out most of her Valentine’s Day booty, birthday party favors, and bring our own substitute for birthday cake, which she happily accepts.
        I will not undermine her efforts at her own health and well-being because the FDA has their heads stuck up their butts and refuse to see what more and more other countries are seeing, and restrict the use of food dyes.

      4. But many, many medications (there are vague lists on line-you’d have to check with a PharmD for specifics) including antihistamines are derived from petroleum. So saying petroleum derived medication can’t have petroleum derived additives doesn’t make sense. Usually even with true allergies (even anaphylaxis but that’s done under an allergist care) frequent exposure to small amounts of the allergan is good. There’s usually a threshold where the person won’t react.

  8. Could someone please explain to me why Benadryl (diphenhydramine) contains unnecessary food dyes? I find it absolutely shocking that something which might cause an allergic reaction in some is in allergy medicine!

  9. I am an older woman, and have been in the hospital 14 times, with a swollen tongue. Had to be treated and no fun. The latest is an allergy of red dye 40. But is is called other names also, like annato and some others. Thanks for all your work. I cannot understand why the U.S. does not do anything. I also wrote to Pillsbury, and also the President and Mrs. Obama. I read everything and I missed at least 14 times. I have be careful.
    Kepp up the good work.

    1. Anatto is actually a natural plant-derived colorant, found in almost all orange cheddar products. Some people still react, but some people react to gluten too. Doesn’t make it a petrol-derived ingredient.

      1. That doesn’t change the fact that it’s a dye that is very allerginic, more so than many synthetic. Just because it’s natural doesn’t make it good. Otherwise go add some opium or pot to your food and call it good.

  10. nesquik chocolate syrup… it has caramel color, red 40, blue 1, and yellow 6. chocolate is already brown, why must we color it? i used to buy nesquik bc it was the only brand made with sugar instead of high fructose corn syrup…but i happened to read the label the other day. into the trash can.

    1. We tried Lisa’s chocolate syrup recipe and have never looked back! It’s delicious and your kids will never know the difference. It’s 1 Tbsp of unsweetened cocoa powder and 2 Tbsp of organic pure maple syrup. Takes a little time to dissolve the cocoa powder, but the results are worth it. Hope that is helpful!

  11. There is an app for your smart phone (I know it is available on Droid) called Fooducate. You can scan the bar code of a food item and it will tell you if there are dyes and artificial sweeteners, as well as the probability of GMO. Makes it a little quicker than reading those ingredient lists!!

    1. That is very interesting. It sounds like a helpful app. I’m going to check into it but I don’t think I’ll be skipping reading labels entirely. With all the changes these companies make to slip things by us we have to be vigilant.

  12. I just wanted to give a big thank you for making such a huge effort in awareness of food safety and healthy eating. I have been following your website for a year, and my family and I truly benefit from it. You are changing the world, one household at a time!

  13. We use Motrin all the time – I like it better than Tylenol. What would be a good substitute for a pain reliever???

    1. There is dye-free liquid ibuprofen, in both brand names (like Motrin) and generics. You just have to look for it. Unfortunately, there aren’t any dye-free chewables that I’ve seen.

  14. A couple of weeks ago, my kids were drinking Langers Apple, Kiwi, Strawberry 100% Juice with “100% Pure Juice” written on the front label, I didn’t think it was necessary to read the ingredients as they should all be fruit juice. Right? In bold lettering on the side of the bottle it states “Its 100% Pure”. However, after reading the ingredients I found it contained Red 40 which is made from petroleum and Estergum which is used in varnish, laquer, and paint!!!

    I wrote to the company and have not received a reply. DO NOT BELIEVE the front of labels. Read the ingredients. Somehow they are allowed to be deceptive in 100% pure claims!

    1. Depending on the claim, manufacturers are allowed to have a certain % of non-compliant ingredients. If it contains less than 1% food dye, it can claim to be all-natural or be 100% juice or whatever. (Organics are allowed either 10 or 20% GMO ingredients, due to cross-contamination from nearby farms!)

  15. One of our boys has emotional reactions to red dye 40. We were shocked when we started looking at ingredients. Pilsbury crescent rolls actually every Pilsbury bread product had red dye 40 in it. Every light/lowfat yogurt had it too. Very eye opening we had no idea had much we were consuming it.

  16. I have been watching the food dyes in my kids diets for awhile now. One that I found surprising was dyes in waffles. More specifically Eggo waffles. Who would have thought dyes would be in waffles?

  17. Having two kids with severe chemical reactions to food dyes, I’m all to familiar with what products contain which food dyes… one product that is bothering me because of the numerous commercials i have seen daily is TWIZZLERS. How can anybody willing give their kids this crap….my son goes to preschool and obviously has food restrictions, it is amazing to watch all the other parents give the kids food loaded with dyes. What gets me is all the parents know of his food dye restrictions and very few make the exception for him when planning the snacks…other kids have strawberry or peanut allergies and they have no problem abidding by those restrictions…

  18. Marshmallows! Why must we color them with Blue 1? My son had a reaction a few weeks ago after I inadvertently allowed him to have some blueberry cream cheese on his bagel at church. Those dyes are in everything!

  19. Thank you for your work in educating us. I have been reading labels more and more and just recently discovered RED 40 in my PRE-NATAL VITAMINS, I could not believe it. Why do I care if the pills are pink?? These are issued at our local health clinic.

  20. Deanna Jergenson

    I have been a teacher for 14 years and the change in the children’s attention has changed dramatically. I really think that our food has been a major contributor.

    1. I think television and media exposure in general also plays a great role in changing children’s attention. 14 years ago, there wasn’t nearly the availability of children’s programming that there is today.

  21. Artificial dyes are in so many things, it’s truly crazy! One of my ‘pet peeves’ is that PET FOOD has artificial colors! Like the cat or dog cares? CRAZY!!

  22. After going the Feingold way, I learned there are fewer than a dozen products (I’m guessing but that’s close) I can buy at walmart. Ugh. That’s where most locals shop. Most astounding is that every single jar of banana peppers I’ve ever seen has yellow dye, and only one brand offers a line of pickles that does not. Why homemade pickles can look a little sickly blue-ish!

    I cannot recommend feingold enough! Amazing resource for what’s safe. Worth the $69-$89 fee. Saved my kids, my sanity, and hours of research. The alternative is to cook EVERYthing from scratch, which I mostly do because of the lack of shopping options where I live. They also offer online shopping resources.

  23. I have been checking food coloring for awhile now, after someone told me it could lead to learning disabilities (I’m not sure if that is true or not). I found awhile ago Hunt’s snack pudding and Vanilla wafers have dye – yellow, I believe.

  24. Boxed cake mixes. Ok, so they’re pretty awful, but every now and then, you need something in a pinch! Why put artificial colors in white/ vanilla cake mix?! There are some brands that have some flavors without dyes, but you really have to read the labels every time. The food companies can change their ingredients at any time without notifying the public, so it’s important to check those labels every time.

  25. In addition to asking Kraft to be an “Industry Leader” I would like to see a “Kudos” go out to other Brightly Colored Kid food items that may not be “real food” but leave out artificial dyes – I’m thinking of Goldfish and Rainbow Colored Goldfish specifically – they are very colorful, almost a staple in many households (ie very profitable for the company), and colored with vegetable extracts. Might not be real food but like Kraft it appeals to the masses and doesn’t use anything artificial. Kind of a “They can Do it Why can’t You?”

    1. Sorry, but no. That’s the fallacy of pretend healthy foods. Studies show that these foods are worse for you than ones that don’t pretend to be healthy, because you (or your children) eat more of them. Mix white flour, vegetable oil, a little salt and sugar and feed it to your kids. It’s pretty much the same as goldfish (and no Annie’s isn’t much better). You have to look at the whole picture, not one little area (such as no artificial dyes).

    2. No, actually many studies have shown that fake “healthy foods” are worse for people than junkfoods because you think they are healthy. There’s nothing good about goldfish. They are a combination of white flour, vegetable oil and salt with a little cheese and sugar thrown in. Annie’s gold fish are also not any better (though they have a long name for their non whole wheat flour). That’s why you must look at the big picture. Except for a person who is allergic a dyed orange (after all I peel mine) is better nutritionally than vegetable colored goldfish.

      1. Oh yea, I already know what you mean. As I wrote in my original post, I didn’t mean that they are healthy, I meant it in a response to Kraft and using dyes. There are already some kids food that have lots of color, but it’s not artificial color. Since we are not going to rid the world of unhealthy foods, at least not quickly, we can push for natural dyes. If these other companies are given a “Kudos” for not using the worst of the bad stuff then that’s another push for Kraft to eliminate their artificial colors.

  26. I was so annoyed to see that baby vitamins (poly-vi-sol) have caramel color in them :(. And my Dr recommended it too. Great job on this journey BTW!

  27. What boggles my mind is the foods that are already brightly coloured still get poisoned by dyes. And something like berry juice having flavour added to it. Really? It’s BERRIES, they’re already flavourful. You can’t even buy white peppermints without food colouring in them. They’re white because of the white sugar. We don’t desperately need blue food dye in them to enhance that.

  28. Amanda, I found a recipe for red velvet cake that used beets for the coloring. You couldn’t taste them at all. Unfortunately, I can’t remember the website where I found the recipe.

  29. Amanda- re: Red Velvet cake…google some recipes that use steamed pureed beets in a chocolate cake recipe. It won’t be as red after it bakes, but it is yummy and fun.

  30. I agree…the white marshmallows with blue dye has to be the strangest and most crazy. The Wal-Mart brand (last time I checked) did not contain the dye…not that it is healthy, but for those last min. campfires. When I first started down the path of dye free, I could NOT find any allergy medicines for my child that were free of dye. I thought that was crazy. There are more alternatives that 5-6 years ago, so it seems to be catching on…I hope.

  31. @Amanda..I was told true red velvet cake color comes from the reaction of vinegar to other ingredients in the mix. Sad to think they have to use food dyes to get it red, and considering it’s really really red, I can only imagine how much has to be added!

    1. I read a recipe for red velvet a few months ago… It said to put the WHOLE bottle in. I told my husband we are never eating red velvet again!

      I’m so bummed about the frosting though. My daughter (5) knows to scrape most of the icing off her treat cupcakes at school. I’ve told her white is okay. I hate to have to take that away from her too. :(

  32. P.S. – You may wish to make these two changes –

    “Artificial color” usually means natural colors have been added from a from a plant, animal, or mineral source. Any petroleum based dyes used in U.S. products must be listed specifically by their individual names like Red 40, Red 3, Yellow 5, Yellow 6, Blue 1, Blue 2, Green 3, and Citrus Red.

    Also, Citrus Red is only used on Florida oranges, not on frankfurters or sausages. “Orange B” is used in frankfurters an sausages.

    Hope this helps!

    1. Critical Reader

      Check out the FDA webpage. There are certified colors and exempt colors. The certified ones (and a few others) need to be declared by name, but not the other ones. Exempt colors can also be the product of chemical synthesis or what you call “petroleum based”. For example, carotenoids can be extracted from a natural source or synthesized in the lab.

      1. Critical Reader, I did get my info from the FDA website. That’s why I think the phrase “Dyes are also sometimes listed as Artificial Color” – added to the bottom of a list of specifically named synthetic colors (as in, not derived from plants or animals) – could be very confusing to her readers. It makes it appear that if they are just avoiding synthetic dyes as listed right above that phrase, that they should also avoid anything with the phrase “Artificial color”, but that is not necessarily always the case.

        I check my info before posting, and that is how I know this as well as the Citrus Red and Orange B mixup. Thanks!

  33. Shari Janovsky

    Thank you Lisa and team for your continuous research and information you provide! I have been looking all ingredients since I got hooked to your website.
    Thank you!

  34. I had to go get my daughter some fever reducer tonight as she has been fighting a virus all week. I always buy Hyland’s natural dye free cold medicine for her, but have had a hard time giving her Tylenol and motrin knowing of the dye’s in them. I was very pleased tonight to find Motrin Dye Free available at CVS! Awesome!

  35. Thanks for posting. Please sign and share my petition directed to the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, asking them to #DitchTheDyes from children’s antibiotics, vitamins, allergy and cold meds, and toothpaste: http://www.diefooddye.com/petition/ We rarely have dye-free choices when it comes to antibiotics, and we expose our kids to vitamins and toothpaste daily. Thanks for your support!

    1. Critical Reader

      Traditional red velvet cake recipes do not contain any added dye at all. Therefore, it has a reddish-brownish color and not a bright red color.

  36. I was shocked when I realized that our “gel” toothpaste had blue dyes in it. Can’t believe I didn’t think of that sooner!

  37. If your kids are showing reactions to artificial dyes, they may also have reactions to artificial flavors and sweeteners, as well as the petroleum-based preservatives BHA, BHT, and TBHQ. You might look into the Feingold diet, it has been very helpful for our family. They do have “non” real food choices on their foodlists (like fried potato chips for example), but they are free of the items listed above at least. Some preservatives can be sprayed inside the packaging and not listed on the ingredient list. Feingold contacts the food manufacturers directly asking some pretty tough questions, to ensure the food doesn’t contain any bad stuff.

    Also, the FDA makes money for every pound of color they “certify” so this is definitely the fox guarding the hen house.

  38. I appreciate all the work you done.
    I have decided that most food on the american grocery shelves is CRAP! I nearly feel like questioning if this is some kind of plot against our children. (sounds like a novel plot.) I call dibs on the that one. Really, the chemists that develop this crap know the truth. In the 50’s I remember hearing the bible passage about in the latter days picking up deadly poison and it won’t harm them. (EZ, I think. I had wondered why people would deliberately eat or drink poison. My policy is to avoid politics and religion-i’m breaking my rule. The reality is we are feeding ourselves and our children what?
    I am flabbergasted at why we are consuming deadly poison.

    1. Malika…I have often wondered the same thing. Mostly because there seems to be absolutely no explanation that makes any sense. So the explanations that sound almost crazy may be the ones that could sadly be true :(

  39. I was really surprised (and incredibly annoyed!) to find yellow dye in the grain cereal we eat. It doesn’t even “look” like it has dye in it. Also I had no idea they were coloring oranges. :(

  40. Marshmallows! They contain blue dye. I am learning that items that are typically white (and processed) have blue in them.

    1. Assistant to 100 Days (Amy)

      Hi Debbie. An ingredient in caramel coloring, such that is in some colas, has been listed as being a carcinogen. ~Amy

  41. Odd places dyes show up:
    Blue on marshmallows
    Hand soap
    Toothpaste
    Frosting
    Chocolate things
    Pickles

    A lot of store brands make the same thing without dyes…for example for camping, we found an off brand that didn’t have blue in them. Read your labels!! My son has severe behavior issues after consuming dyes and some preservatives.

  42. I was surprised to see dyes in chocolate pudding. We avoid yellow #5 specifically in our house because of an asthmatic and hive reaction in my youngest son. We are adding more dyes to our avoid list now after reading your blog and Vani’s FoodBabe. Thanks again for your courage to fight for our food!! You rock!

  43. I was looking around the bathroom for dyes…wow… it is in lots of stuff. I even noticed a few not on the list. I’m assuming avoiding all dyes is preferable but curious why some aren’t mentioned…

    I’m learning a lot from your blog…thanks for your tireless efforts!

  44. Am I wrong that when it is listed as “artificial color” like the pizza crust, it does not contain petro dyes? I understand that if something contains petroleum derived dyes the dyes MUST be listed by the name and number…Red 40, Yellow 5.

  45. Heidi Hollenbach

    Thank you for this informative article. I made a list of the artificial dyes to avoid and will be checking labels more carefully! We don’t eat many processed food, but I had neglected to check my children’s vitamins and medicine. I appreciate all you do to help our families!

    1. Walmart’s Great Value brand has no blue dye in them. And believe it or not, I’ve found dye free marshmallows at the Dollar Tree.

  46. Blueberry bagels, blueberry muffins, etc. You’d think they could just put blueberries in, but nope, they add blue dye.

  47. I was shocked to see the flinstones vitamins on that list! I just bought some for my son thinking “oh im doing something to better his overall health”! Does anyone know of a childrens vitamin sans all the artificialness??? Err!!!

  48. My son gets horrible abdominal migraines from artificial dyes and colorants. He is on the autism spectrum and has a broken gut so for years we assumed his gut pain was constipation. A we cleaned up more of our diet and took more processed foods out of our diets we came to this realization. Just another reason to get rid of this crap in our foods. :(

  49. In response to the vitamin question – Shaklees vitamins are free of all artificial dyes, preservatives, sweeteners and flavors. I give them to my kids and they love them.

    I’ve seen dyes in prescription medications and there is no alternative. I think that’s criminal!

  50. I’ve only made serious changes in diet about 3 months ago, and when people ask me how hard it is or how I keep it up, I point back to education every time. When you start getting educated through amazing resources like yours, it isn’t so hard to make the right choices anymore. (Now if only I could get my picky junk food husband to agree!)

    Thank you for the inspiration to continue to make changes, by providing the info that makes the need so clear.

    ~Anita

  51. I am confused on the Red 3. On the slide you have pictured it is listed as one of the approved ones, but in the paragraph below it says Red 3 is not approved. Please let me know which one is correct, unless I am reading it all wrong. Thanks!

    1. Thank you for pointing that out. Red 3 is still used in food, but no longer allowed in cosmetics or external drugs. I’ve added that note.

  52. My daughter also is reactive to all the dyes, especially red. Thank you for continuing to bring these topics to people’s attention. The more we put the right thing out there, the more informed people will be and hopefully make better and positive food choices. Many thanks!

  53. My Kraft Cracker Barrel Cheese has the ingredient “colour” listed. It does not specify whether it is artificial or natural. I see this on a lot of other products as well. Can I assume this is artificial? Thanks for making us think about our food.

    1. Assistant to 100 Days (Amy)

      Hi Anne. So, it is spelled c-o-l-o-u-r? Are you in the US? It is safer to assume that it is artificial but I am having trouble referencing that spelling in US brands. Let me know. ~Amy

      1. Yes, that’s the Canadian spelling. I live in Canada. I called Kraft and they advised that the Kraft Cracker Barrel Cheese contains both natural and artificial colour.

      1. Yep, all our Crest and Aquafresh had the dyes! Now we have Tom’s. All my girls Suave shampoo had dye too :(

      2. Yep, especially kid toothpaste. We use Tom’s. Burt’s bees has a dye free one as well. There are several others but those two are really easy to find at most stores.

  54. Can someone recommend a good children’s vitamin that would be similar to a Flinstone first step vitamin?

    1. Sorry, it is hard to find a children’s vitamin, that isn’t synthetic, is artificial color free AND low in sugar. Even the artificial dye free gummy vitamins recommended by this website contain nearly a teaspoon of sugar per serving. My pediatrician recommends that my children take a vitamin D supplement because we live in a northern climate. So, I gave up gummies and switched to a vitamin D drop that I add to water. It is called Yum Yum D3 Liquid and I get it at whole foods.

      http://www.amazon.com/Yum-D3-0-9-fl-Liquid/dp/B002J0RF2U

      Vitamins are tricky, even adult ones often contain artificial color in the coating.

      1. Thank you for the input ladies! I need to get some for my 2 year old. I never even considered this.

    2. We get L’il Critters gummy vites and Omega 3s from CostCo. They use fruit extracts for coloring, but look and taste great.

  55. After I noticed the Yellow 5 in pickles last month, I searched for non-dye pickles. Found several kinds at Whole Foods and Fresh Market but sadly, they all taste horrible! Specifically, the dill varieties all taste sweet- similar to the “Bread and Butter” variety that I think tastes awful. They don’t taste dill at all. Any recommendations on a dill pickle/relish brand that actually tastes good?

    1. I would highly recommend making your own refrigerator pickles, especially in the summer,(super easy!) or buying pickles at your local farmer’s market (most vendors have free samples).

      For brine: combine 3 cups water with 2-3 tbs of kosher salt, 6 tbs of white vinegar, stir until dissolved.

      Cut 2-3 full size cucumbers in slices or spears. Layer cucumbers in a dish or bowl (Corningware works well) with sprigs of fresh dill.

      Pour brine over cucumbers and grate 1-2 cloves of garlic on top.

      Cover and refrigerate 2 days before eating.

      1. Yes. My girlfriend found this recipe when trying to replicate the crunchy dill slices served at our favorite burger restaurant. My husband, a Chicago native, prefers pickle spears, especially when served alongside a hotdog with the works.

      2. This pickle recipe was awesome… I’ve been trying to find a good dill recipe and this is by far the best. The dill was even home grown. Thanks for sharing.

  56. The argument that we grew up just fine always drives me crazy. We have, now more than ever, ADD, ADHD, Autism, obesity, cancers, etc that we have to deal with. The sudden spike in numbers is not just a coincidence and matches perfectly with the “crap” we ate that made us turn out just fine. :)

    I found it in cheerios, rice crispies, some other “healthier” cereals. UGH!!

    1. Target brands have dye free versions. I’ve noticed it’s much harder to find dye free versions of children’s tylonel.

      1. Dye free children’s tylonel used to be sold at Target before the big recall, a few years back and I haven’t seen it since. I switched to ibuprofen, and have found dye free in the Target brand, Walgreen’s brand and Advil.

      2. If you have a Kroger chain grocery nearby (King Soopers, Fred Meyer… not sure what else in their chain), they sell a dye free version of children’s Tylenol.

    2. I reccomend the Little Remedies. They have a whole line of children’s medicine that is HFCS and artificial color/flavor free. They are resonably priced and if you go to their website you print a coupon!

  57. I found it in pillsbury crescent rolls, why would they need to add Red 40 to those. Not that they are something that we are eating any longer. My mom actually used the excuse that I grew up just fine on what she fed me. She doesn’t understand why we are changing what we eat and has told me she doesn’t know what she will fix when we visit. It is just hard for some people to grasp this concept, if only they did a little research like my husband and I have done. Thank you for inspiring me to feed family real food!!

  58. A friend of mine and her son are both very allergic to red dyes- so, of course she reads the labels on absolutely everything! I was shocked when she told me that they are now adding dyes to soaps, shampoos, and other cosmetics. I had never even thought of looking on the ingredient list of those sorts of products. So, it isn’t just limited to what we eat but also what we use on our bodies. One company that I was really shocked with is Bath & Body Works that has recently started to ADD these dyes to their products. I thought companies were trying to go back to being more “natural” and removing harmful dyes and chemicals from their products. Definitely not the case! So, make sure you read, read, read all the labels on EVERYTHING that you buy!

  59. What really gets to me is the food coloring in dog food/treats. Aren’t dogs color blind? It’s incredibly unfortunate that the pet food industry is so poorly regulated. You ASSUME it’s safe for your pet because it’s on a store shelf. Very upsetting for someone who considers their dog as their only child!

  60. Susan Hallwachs

    My son is very sensitive to red dye 40. He vomits violently, to the point of bleeding. I found that it is in vitamins, cough drops, and other medications. You will be amazed when you start keeping track. You have to check EVERYTHING!!

  61. A couple of years ago my 2 year old son started getting hives all over his body. After doing an extensive elimination diet to try to ferret out the culprit we were left with no answers. I was sensitive to red dye when I was a child (severe hyperactivity after eating red popsicles) so I dug into this and found that the Benadryl that we were giving him to keep the hives at bay contained Red #40 and was actually the cause of the hives. Switched to dye-free and haven’t had issues since.

  62. We were surprised when we found Yellow 5 & 6 in dill pickles and Doritos. Then my husband told me he had Yellow 5 in his body wash. I couldn’t believe it. Why is that necessary? For Easter I made a pie using Dream Whip and White Chocolate Jello pudding (both Kraft products) and they both have yellow 5. Ummmm Dream whip doesn’t even look yellow so why is it added. The pudding is kind of an off white but I don’t see why you would need to make it that color. It’s white chocolate it can stay white.

  63. Your website is wonderful! I have learned a lot about what’s in our food and recently wondered if I need to worry if a product says “spices.” From my own cooking I know I often use a small amount of a particular spice compared with the amount of veggies, meat, grain, etc. so I wondered if listing “spices” is allowed because the relative quantity is small. And if by spices the company means pepper, turmeric, garlic and other spices that I use in my own cooking, I’m fine with that. I just want to make sure “they” are not hiding anything with this word. Thanks in advance for your help!

    1. Assistant to 100 Days (Amy)

      Hi Megan. “Spices” on an ingredient list SHOULD only refer to true herbs and spices. Nothing chemical. That is the rule…
      ~Amy

  64. Pickles….Oh nooooo… Not my pickles. This is sure an eye opener. I now have my magnifying glass in my purse! When I was told I could not have red dye I was shocked at how many items have red dye (especially since my favorite color is purple). Even more shocked since finding your site. No wonder our country has so much illness etc. Thank you. for all you do.

  65. I have not had problems finding dye-free children’s medicine, but I cannot find similar things for adults (i.e., acetaminophen, ibuprophen or pseudoephedrine). Are there such things?

  66. Any thoughts on a substitute for Motrin? I read the ingredients for all the fever reducers and they all seem to have a dye in them! We only use it for the extreme cases, most of the time we focus homeopathic wise to help the body fight whatever infection is going on. but still, in those cases when we need something…

    1. Kroger has a dye free acetomenophian (I know I speller that wrong!) It has sucralose in it but I’ll take a little of that over red 40 any day! I’ve also gotten dye free ibuprofean at Target. It was their Up brand. Good luck!

  67. So as I am reading this I am munching on ‘Cracker Barrel Cheddar Cheese Cracker Cuts’ (Kraft). I took a look at the back and “Annato (Color)” is listed as an ingredient. Ever heard of this?

    1. Annato is a natural coloring. It is plant based. I still try to avoid it because sometimes it’s unnaturally extracted, but it’s not synthetic.

    2. WIKIPEDIA: In commercial processing, annatto coloring is extracted from the reddish pericarp which surrounds the seed of the achiote (Bixa orellana L.). Historically, it has been used as coloring in many cheeses (e.g., Cheddar, Gloucester, Red Leicester), cheese products (e.g. American cheese, Velveeta), and dairy spreads (e.g. butter, margarine). Annatto can also be used to color a number of non-dairy foods such as rice, custard powder, baked goods, seasonings, processed potatoes, snack foods, breakfast cereals and smoked fish. It has been linked to cases of food-related allergies.

  68. Caramel color should be on the list too. EVERYTHING has some kind of color to be more appealing to the eye. Have you seen the Gatorade with the color – it looks so weird because we are used to seeing the pretty colors..lol. It is scary what is in the food we eat. Convenience unfortunately usually wins over for most people. I need a personal chef! :)

      1. It’s a bummer you can’t tell from the label if it is the natural version or not though… Back when I was nursing my son and he had a casein-sensititity, I had to avoid caramel color and flavor. One because of a possibility of dairy/casein and the other because CPSI had it on their “avoid” list. Obviously I still can’t remember which was which, so I just try to avoid them both.

  69. Thank you so much for this info. It could not be more timely for me–one of my children was just diagnosed ADHD and the other was identified as possibly having sensory processing disorder. It’s scary how prevalent these dyes and sodium benzoate are in processed food. We are making the switch to organic, real foods and have thrown out anything in our pantry and fridge with dyes.

    1. I definitely have seen a link between the colors and the ADHD. I bet you will see an improvement in your child’s behavior, etc when the switch is complete! Good luck, and let us know how it goes. :)

      1. Laurie,
        Thank you for the encouraging words! I am so helpful we can get my daughter’s ADHD under control with just diet alone. We mainly eat organic, real foods already but I wasn’t considering things like medicines and there were a few “treats” we kept that of course had the dyes. I had not even thought of toothpaste! Just read that on this thread and sure enough, her toothpaste has blue dye. Heading to the store today to buy replacement toothpastes!

  70. Thanks for the information. Since you’ve dedicated a lot of time and research into this can I request a follow-up article stating some that are dye-free? I’m new to the “healthy” lifestyle; or rather, my eyes have recently been open up to what is truly healthy. I’ve really concentrated on myself and allowed my son some leeway, but am learning I’m doing him a disservice (and it’s showing in some attention issues at school- he’s 5). However, I’m an extremely overwhelmed single mom with a fulltime job who would love some short cuts, or good places to start to make the switch to healthier eating. I shop a lot at Trader Joes, but I’m already aware that they still have a lot of “enriched” foods that aren’t healthy. Could you perhaps share your “go-to” list for quick snacks/meals that a 5 year old would be all over?

    Thanks! Keep fighting this important fight!

    1. Assistant to 100 Days (Amy)

      Hi Rebecca. Thanks so much for your input. Here are a few posts that might help you with your go-to list: https://www.100daysofrealfood.com/2012/07/31/85-snacks-for-kids-and-adults/, https://www.100daysofrealfood.com/2012/04/19/school-lunch-roundup/, and https://www.100daysofrealfood.com/2012/09/04/school-lunch-roundup-ii/. Also, take time to comb through the recipe index and pick out some meals that you know will work for you. Best of luck!! ~Amy

  71. It’s fairly east to avoid the whole artificial issue at home because we’re eating real food. The problem is everywhere else, and it’s hard to avoid eating altogether in other people’s homes or in restaurants. And as others have stated, in medicines and vitamins as well. Lots of good information, thanks.

  72. My daughter gets bad eczema on her face and hands from Red 40. I figured it out at a time when we were eating a new brand of raspberry jelly. Once I cut everything out I thought of, she cleared up quite a bit, but was still having problems. I read a forum online and checked a few things. Sure enough, our buttercream frosting and her toothpaste contained Red 40. I just buy Tom’s toothpaste now. The kids like the strawberry flavor and there are no artificial dyes or flavors. It is really difficult to find dye-free children’s liquid medicines. It’s especially frustrating when I am trying to buy medicine to treat her allergic reaction to Red 40 and most of them contain that very ingredient!

  73. My 5 month old daughter had a fever last night and I was so mad when I got the bottle of children’s tylenol and saw artificial dyes in it! It was the first time I had to give her any medicine and I felt horrible putting that into her body. For her next dose, we ran to the drugstore and got the dye-free version (which had HFCS in it still!). It is very frustrating.

    1. Agreed…and I haven’t found an alternative at Whole Foods as far as acetaminophen or ibuprofen. I get Advil brand because of no dyes, but it’s for 6+ months. I do not use acetaminophen anymore because of the ingredients. Just ridiculous. So unnecessary.

      1. More frustrating still… Children’s Benadryl… My husband found and bought a dye free version of that, but when he brought it home we realized it had aspertame in it. I hated to have him return it and keep the other… I figure a known carcinogen is worse than the artificial dye since my kids don’t appear to have a reaction to them. Just another reason to hope my kids don’t have an allergic reaction to something. SOOOO frustrating!!!

  74. Awhile back I bought my son the off brand of flinstone kid vitamins and as I began to learn about dyes and sweetners I was surprise to what I had discovered on the ingredients. These vitamins also contained aspartame. Immediately I threw them away and found other gummy vitamins that did not contain these ingredients.
    Ever since I’ve joined your blog I have learned about these ingredients and began to research these items. THANK YOU so much for what you are doing and passing the word out to people and these food companies.

  75. I have been diligently checking labels and not buying anything with dyes. I was surprised about the pickles. Really, do we need to colour a pickle?

    I have a set of Wilton cake food colorings here – I assume those are nasty as well? I will toss them out and find alternatives for desserts.

  76. I’m trying to eliminate artificial dyes from our diets as well, but I’m missing the fun that comes with decorating their cakes and other foods … what about green food for St. Patrick’s Day? Red and Green for Christmas? I would love some suggestions on how to otherwise color food for fun!

    1. Critical Reader

      Carrie, why do cookies and cakes need to be colorful? It is all a matter of what you are used to. Make an experiment and do a google picture search with “christmas cookies” and “Weihnachtsplaetzchen”. Those American cookies just freak me out…

  77. WOW… just WOW!

    I happen to love Vitafusion MultiVites for adults and according to their claims, they “provide an essential daily formula in a delicious gummy vitamin. They are specially formulated for adults and contain only natural colors and award-winning flavors.”

    But of course they have a disclaimer reading “This statement has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.”

  78. Oh my goodness..this is so sad. To think of all the dyes we have been injecting. I am very upset about this. Thank you for your informative post. You guys are the best!

  79. When we started limiting food dyes in our kids years ago, I was shocked to discover all the hidden dyes. Now, mind you, we still had not switched over to a more whole foods diet yet, but we were working on it. My DH is an extremely picky eater, so it’s been a slow process, but it’s getting better. I remember being shocked to find boxed chocolate pudding mix has red #40 in it.

  80. Great post, and so timely! I’m getting ready to plan my daughters first birthday party and I’m looking in to getting natural food coloring. I was just wondering if you’ve tried any and could recommend a certain kind? Thanks!!

    1. I’ve been making my kids’ bday cakes with no artificial dyes for 2 years now, and I’ve learned that they’ll never be as brilliant as the artificials. With that in mind, I plan the cake around that. There are some naturally colored candies that have some pretty bright colors (organic jelly beans and lollipops, licorice, some shades of Sundrops which is an organic m&m type candy, so I’ll use those. Fruits and berries are good too, and there are lots of adorable printable banners and such that can be put on a cake using skewers that add something special. Not edible, but still cute. :) We gotta work with what we’ve got!

    1. I was ticked when I discovered that one last month. I knew I was getting corn syrup (yuck) but blue dye, really? Sadly that was the first artificially dyed food I brought into the house this year. I use marshmallows about twice a year, Grasshopper pie on St Patrick’s Day and s’mores while camping. I guess Marshmallows are another whole Foods only item now. I contemplated making my own a few years ago, but all the recipes I’ve found call for corn syrup, sigh.

      1. Walmart’s Great Value brand actually has no dye. Guess they aren’t worried about how “white” they look but side by side they look identical to the brand name marshmallows WITH the blue dye.

    1. I have not found ANY pickles that are acceptable for my family, not even at Whole Foods. So my husband just makes them. It’s pretty easy, actually!

      1. Actually, Claussen in the refrigerated section of the grocery is a brand that doesn’t have artificial color. It took me a while to find one that didn’t. But… if you are able to make them, even better!:)

      2. Claussen has a preservative in it (Sodium benzoate I’m pretty sure), and also something else we are not okay with. They all do, even the ones at Whole Foods, or if they don’t, we don’t like them. I really miss pickles and Claussens were my favorite!

  81. Wow- this is eye opening for me. Thank you for posting! It never crossed my mind to check multivitamins but it makes sense. Do you buy any multivitamins for your kids? If so, what brand? This website has been so helpful and motivational for my family and I to get started on real food.

    1. Amy, we found some great gummy Minnie and Mickey Mouse vitamins with no artificial colors at Costco. Also, any multivitamin you can find at Whole Foods or Trader Joes would not contain artificial coloring.

    2. WOW… just WOW!

      I happen to love Vitafusion MultiVites for adults and according to their claims, they “provide an essential daily formula in a delicious gummy vitamin. They are specially formulated for adults and contain only natural colors and award-winning flavors.”

      But of course they have a disclaimer reading “This statement has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.”

    3. I get multivitamins for my kids at Whole Foods (so, no artificial anything. More expensive but WORTH IT). Although I don’t think my adult ones have dyes (they are not colored) I will be checking the label nonetheless. I am usually very vigilant about avoiding all artificial dyes, but I tend to be much more vigilant when my kids will be ingesting whatever it is…so I should remember this when buying vitamins for my husband or me!

  82. This is a great place to start! Please note that there are labeling loopholes so that artificial ingredients don’t have to be on the label. If they are an ingredient to an ingredient – they don’t have to be listed. So Red #40 added to strawberries which are then added to yogurt doesn’t need to list the Red #40 on the label. The best way is to buy organic fresh food and “process” it yourself :)

    1. Scott – Can you please share your source for that information? It’s my understanding that it has to be stated (even if it is part of another ingredient as you mentioned).

    2. i would like to know if this is a fact. My kids have a reaction to food red food dyes. I want to know if I should cut out more foods if this is the case. They randomly breakout to other foods that do not say they have dye. I just wonder if that’s what’s going on. Like if ut says tomato concentrate as an ingredient but lists no dye on the lable ?

    3. Critical Reader

      It is a grey area. Regulation defines the following exemption: “Substances that have no technical or functional effect but are present in a food by reason of having been incorporated into the food as an ingredient of another food, in which the substance did have a functional or technical effect.” (CFR 101.100(3) i)

      So, when does a sub-ingredient has a functional or technical effect? MSG always, preservatives & food dyes only sometimes. I do not know how the law is interpreted in the US, but just looking at ingredient labels, (so far) US companies are pretty thorough with their labelings. As a comparison, sub-ingredients are listed in the US which no European manufacturer would disclose – most likely due to over-sensitized consumers who avoid additives (“natural” or not) like the plague.