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This week, when I could have been home watching TV, I decided to attend a seminar by a naturopathic doctor (Dr. Shelese Pratt) to help shed light on the increase in autism and also why so may kids are suffering from allergies, asthma, hyperactivity and sleep disorders.

I’m not sure what propelled me to go since my kids thankfully don’t suffer from any of these ailments, but I’m interested in children’s health.

I was fascinated to learn that behavioral issues amongst children can often be traced back to deficiencies in their diets and natural makeup, food sensitivities or toxins they are being exposed to (either by what they eat or the air they breathe, etc).

The reality is children today are exposed to way more chemicals than we ever were as kids and it has had an effect. So I’m listening to this doctor who is incredibly knowledgeable and she is talking about some stuff I already know, like your kids should drink more water and take in less carbs/more protein in the morning.

(Although that is probably not going to happen in my house since I have no time to trade in cereal for turkey sausage and eggs. Listen, if I had time to scramble up some eggs, I’d also be shaving my legs in the shower. My kids can eat protein later in the day.)

And then Dr. Pratt started talking about artificial sweeteners and food colorings.

Artificial sweeteners are not good for developing brains. Got it. Check.

And food colorings are toxic and rampant in U.S. products. Wait, what?! Maybe I’m an idiot (don’t comment on that) but I’ve never thought about food colorings being dangerous.

Well, boy was I wrong.

Commonly used food dyes, such as Yellow 5 and Red 40 are in all kinds of U.S. products marketed for children and are made from petroleum.  Yes, PETROLEUM.  These colorings are in everything from candy to cereal to cough syrup to toothpaste.

These food dyes can cause temper tantrums, hyperactivity, aggressive behavior, nervousness, dizziness and inability to concentrate in children. Some lab studies have even shown a link to cancer.

Artificial colorings are banned in many parts of Europe. Apparently, it’s okay to give U.S. children inferior products, but not European children. Thanks FDA!

“For example, in Britain, Fanta orange soda is dyed with pumpkin and carrot extract while the U.S. version is dyed with Red 40 and Yellow 6. Kellogg Strawberry NutriGrain bars are colored with Red 40, Yellow 6 and Blue 1 in the U.S., but with beetroot, annatto and paprika extract in the UK. McDonald’s Strawberry Sundaes are colored with strawberries in Britain but with Red dye 40 in America.” (According to Food Safety News and The Center for Science in the Public Interest.)

The FDA says it does not believe that artificial food dyes cause hyperactivity in children in the general population.  However, the agency says these dyes may exacerbate problems in susceptible children diagnosed with ADHD.

But in my opinion, since these dyes are completely unnecessary and studies have shown they can have a very negative effect on children’s health, why would we allow them in SO MANY U.S. PRODUCTS?!

This does not sound healthy at all.

I am absolutely a candy addict. I love Mike & Ike’s, Hot Tamales, lollipops, Starbursts, red licorice, M&M’s, you name it. I might as well highlight my hair with Red 40, I’m in so deep.

But I was suddenly horrified by what I was putting in my own PREGNANT body and what I was giving my children. I decided to clean out my pantry of any products that had these artificial colorings. And it filled a bag this big. (I told you I was a candy addict).

bag of food containing food colorings

I was amazed by how much of this I was giving my kids without even realizing it. Look, would I prevent my kids from eating cake at a birthday party because it was chocked full of Red 40, Yellow 5, Blue 1, etc. No, I would not.

But should I be giving this crap to my kids every day as treats or part of their breakfast cereal? Definitely not. You can buy lollipops, popsicles and lots of products without these artificial colorings.  It just means paying attention to labels at the grocery store.

Our kids deserve better than brightly colored, neon food that can potentially make them sick.

And so do I.

36 Responses to omg – i’m a red 40 dye addict!

  • Leigh says:

    My nephew has an “allergy” to red dye #40. Thats what we call it. He’s on a diet called Feingold. Because of this I try not to give my kids the food dyes. There are regular snacks the kids can have. They take these things to snack: color gold fish (they just took the dyes out of these in the past year or so) smartfood, certain brands of animal crackers, pirate booty, Ocean Spray makes a gummy snack that has no dyes. My son likes frozen waffles (I know) but the cinnamon kellogs waffles have dyes but the regular ones do not. It’s frustrating at first to read every label but then you get used to what has dyes and what doesn’t.
    Thanks for this post and reminder!

  • Lanie says:

    A good book to check out is “What’s Eating Your Child” by Kelly Dorfman. No food dye in our house either. Also make sure to check vitamins, medicines and drinks.

    I recently pointed out to my dad that one of his over the counter medicines contains yellow 5 lake. He said he would check with his doctor and his doctor said it is not a problem. I know my dad is no longer growing but I still suggested finding an alternative medication.

    How much red dye do you think is in a Pat O’s Hurricane :-)?

  • Heather says:

    Preach it! I’ve been preaching it for about 5 years now. Watch out for BHT, BHA, and TBHQ preservatives too – all petroleum based preservatives. yuck! Sodium Benzoate is really bad for kids too. Once you eliminate the dyes, those preservatives and HFCS, you pretty much are eating how your grandma’s generation ate.

    Since it’s been so long since I’ve eaten dyes, I can feel how it affects me. Both the red and the yellows dyes make me feel so anxious. I swear it’s why our country uses so many anti-anxiety medications! So it isn’t just kids these dyes and additives mess with.

    Check out Unreal Candy. No dyes! We’ve had their M & M knock off – pretty darn good! Yummy Earth makes dye free suckers that are better than the dye ones.

    • Karri Brost says:

      My 3 yr old and 1 yr old developed a love for Dum Dum suckers after Halloween this year. Instead of giving them dye-filled Dum Dums, I buy them Yummy Earth organic suckers, which are free of dyes, high fructose corn syrup, etc. They love them! It took my son awhile to figure out why his new blueberry sucker was red though, since blueberries naturally produce red color, not blue like the chemical dyes! 🙂

  • bitsy says:

    You are quite right! That’s why I try to cook and bake as much of our food from scratch as possible. But it’s hard to avoid that crap 100%.

  • Princess Judy says:

    When I was a teen I discovered it was the blue dye in my allergy pills that made me throw up so I tried to wash off as much of the blue as I cold (it really was just a coating). I don’t notice a problem with blue now (mucinex) but anything green makes me queasy. I always thought it was me, like a personal allergy, not that this stuff was bad for us!

  • Eileen says:

    Thanks for posting this Kelcey. It’s so important to be reminded of this stuff even if we’ve heard it before. Dr Pratt has saved our family. I was shocked to learn how dangerous some food can be to some children, especially those with histories of immune problems or other illnesses in the family. My son’s recovery is all down to her and teaching me how to be a mother first and ‘busy mom’ second. She will do another talk in a few months if we want her to come back. She has a lecture on naturopathic home remedies which I think will be interesting.

  • I’m overwhelmed by this information. Great to know. My son is a terrible eater and we have started giving him vitamin supplement (liquids) in his milk and his behavior is changed ten fold. We never give really juice or candy but now that you brought up Nutri-grain bars I wonder how many colors are in things that we typically think of as “safe.”

  • Nina says:

    We don’t do food dyes either or artificial flavors. We also don’t do HFCS. That’s why I started MommaCooks…to show people how to cook food without all of that stuff in it but not in a preachy way.

    • Eileen says:

      Lindsey, i arranged the talk. please email me at eileeniorio@gmail.com and I will share what I know. My son is recovering from autism. There are lots of things you can do with his diet and therapy that can help him recover. I’ve seen it and done it. Please email me. Regards, eileen

    • Eileen says:

      Lindsey, if you don’t email me and you do nothing else today, get the following book at your library or on Amazon: “Healing the new Childood epidemics” by Dr. Ken Bock. It will get your started and give you what you need to start the process. then find a good practitioner of naturopathic medicine to get him tested (blood, urine, stool etc) and you will be advised from there. Good Luck!!

  • ErinB says:

    its so overwhelming the amount of information there is and the amount of CRAP that is in everything…but it just takes one little step at a time to make such a difference. I think people get overwhelmed by the “work” to read labels etc but start small- just deal with snack food- then move onto cleaning products- then take on something else. DO SOMETHING! This isn’t about all or nothing… awesome piece and a good reminder for me to do a sweep of our snack cabinet. (yikes!)

    • Apparently (note – google isn’t really SCIENTIFIC) a full grown male should have 100g protein a day – that works out to about 150 – 200g meat to get the actual protein content. It is advisable to have it in the morning or at lunch so that the body can process it because you get lazy when you sleep. If you’re a veggie (where I’m trying to head) then you MUST have a combo of vegetable & dairy proteins – animal proteins are NOT the devil, unless consumed in large quantities.
      Don’t know much about carbs.

  • Amy says:

    My sister-in-law is a doctor and swears by the Red Dye thing. She claims it causes noticeable behavioral issues in their son when he eats it. Of course my skeptical parents tend to think it’s more because he is eating it in sugar-laden candy, but who knows. I am a fellow red candy lover, so I feel your pain.

  • miamimommy says:

    Great post! I had heard this info before and wondered the same thing— if Europe lives without these harmful dyes, why can’t we? What’s up with the FDA? Why do we like to live dangerously in this country?

  • Jen says:

    Thank you Kelcey for sharing such important info. For more information like this you should check out my friend’s new film, The Human Experiment. It hasn’t been released yet but their Facebook page (http://m.facebook.com/TheHuman.....&_rdr) has lots of interesting information and
    alternatives to toxic products. It can be very overwhelming but knowledge is power … or something like that 🙂

  • Amanda says:

    you have inspired me to throw out all the candy and snacks with dyes in them in my house….Trader Joe’s has fantastic candy and chocolate that is all natural…from one candy addict to another..

  • SnarkyMommy says:

    This is why shopping exclusively at Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s works out beautifully for us — we don’t even have to think about it because they don’t sell foods that have that crap in it. Do we still give our kids treats from these stores? Sure. Just because it’s an organic cookie doesn’t mean it’s healthy, but I feel good about the food we feed them. And yes, I let them eat birthday cake at parties, but at the party we are throwing this weekend, I am making organic cupcakes with pink frosting made from BEET JUICE for the special snowflakes. Clearly I have too much time on my hands.

    • Nina says:

      Be careful trusting Whole Foods completely. I made that mistake once. Their bakery items often have junk in them (like dyes and HFCS). You really, really do still have to read the labels there.

  • katie says:

    We had to take dye out of my sons diet 4 years ago. Removing the dye helped his behavior a ton. However if he gets a little by accident we can tell the next day. I have ordered candy from Canada for the holidays since they do not have dye. Their Smarties by nestle are yummy I like them better than m n M’s. No they aren’t, like USA smarties. Did you know hamburger helper has dye and some chocolate cakes?ridiculous!

  • Karri Brost says:

    I checked my prenatal vitamins after reading a story about dyes and the harm they can cause, and sure enough my cute pink vitamins have three different dyes in them. I have avoided HFCS like the plague for the past year or so and refuse to give my children anything that contains it. I swear I spend half my life reading labels in the grocery store. Recently I started searching for dyes too. Along with partially hydrogenated soybean oil. I never thought feeding my family – especially my precious little kids – would be such a stressful event.

  • Loretta says:

    Read your post yesterday and wouldn’t you know, my husband (who IS a dear and does most of the grocery shopping–he actually likes it) brought home, for the FIRST time, RED hot dogs! I know they are popular in Maine, but of course, they have Red Dye #40. He claims they were the only kind of natural casing hot dogs in the grocery store. I kind of doubt it–more likely he wanted to try them. Our kids are grown and probably ate at least of cup of Red Dye #40 growing up. But I’m not going to eat those hot dogs now!

  • Emily says:

    After reading your blog I’ve been keeping an eye out for what I’m feeding my kids that may contain these dyes. The most shocking? Our Flinstone vitamins! Yea…our God damned vitamins that I give my kids once a day! Perfect.

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kelcey kintner