Food Dyes A Rainbow of Risks Sarah Kobylewski, Ph. D. CandidateMolecular Toxicology Program University of California, Los Angeles and Michael F. Jacobson, Ph. D. Executive Director Center for Science in the Public Interest Copyright © 2010 by Center for Science in the Public Interest First Printing June 2010 Printing: 5 4 3 2 1 Summary Food dyes, synthesized originally from coal tar and now petroleum, have long been controversial. Many dyes have been banned because of their adverse effects on laboratory animals.
This report finds that many of the nine currently approved dyes raise health concerns. Blue 1 was not found to be toxic in key rat and mouse studies, but an unpublished study suggested the possibility that Blue 1 caused kidney tumors in mice, and a preliminary in vitro study raised questions about possible effects on nerve cells. Blue 1 may not cause cancer, but confirmatory studies should be conducted. The dye can cause hypersensitivity reactions. Blue 2 cannot be considered safe given the statistically significant incidence of tumors, particularly brain gliomas, in male rats.
It should not be used in foods. Citrus Red 2, which is permitted only for coloring the skins of oranges not used for processing, is toxic to rodents at modest levels and caused tumors of the urinary bladder and possibly other organs. The dye poses minimal human risk, because it is only used at minuscule levels and only on orange peels, but it still has no place in the food supply. Green 3 caused significant increases in bladder and testes tumors in male rats.
Though the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) considers it safe, this little-used dye must remain suspect until further testing is conducted. Orange B is approved for use only in sausage casings, but has not been used for many years. Limited industry testing did not reveal any problems. Red 3 was recognized in 1990 by the FDA as a thyroid carcinogen in animals and is banned in cosmetics and externally applied drugs. All uses of Red 3 lakes (combinations of dyes and salts that are insoluble and used in low-moisture foods) are also banned.
However, the FDA still permits Red 3 in ingested drugs and foods, with about 200,000 pounds of the dye being used annually. The FDA needs to revoke that approval. Red 40, the most-widely used dye, may accelerate the appearance of immune-system tumors in mice. The dye causes hypersensitivity (allergy-like) reactions in a small number of consumers and might trigger hyperactivity in children. Considering the safety questions and its non-essentiality, Red 40 should be excluded from foods unless and until new tests clearly demonstrate its safety.
Yellow 5 was not carcinogenic in rats, but was not adequately tested in mice. It may be contaminated with several cancer-causing chemicals. In addition, Yellow 5 causes sometimes-severe hypersensitivity reactions in a small number of people and might trigger hyperactivity and other behavioral effects in children. Posing some risks, while serving no nutritional or safety purpose, Yellow 5 should not be allowed in foods. Yellow 6 caused adrenal tumors in animals, though that is disputed by industry and the FDA.
It may be contaminated with cancer-causing chemicals and occasionally causes severe hypersensitivity reactions. Yellow 6 adds an unnecessary risk to the food supply. Almost all the toxicological studies on dyes were commissioned, conducted, and analyzed by the chemical industry and academic consultants. Ideally, dyes (and other regulated chemicals) would be tested by independent researchers. Furthermore, virtually all the studies tested individual dyes, whereas many foods and diets contain mixtures of dyes (and other ingredients) that might lead to additive or synergistic effects.
In addition to considerations of organ damage, cancer, birth defects, and allergic reactions, mixtures of dyes (and Yellow 5 tested alone) cause hyperactivity and other behavioral problems in some children. Because of that concern, the British government advised companies to stop using most food dyes by the end of 2009, and the European Union is requiring a warning notice on most dye-containing foods after July 20, 2010. The issue of food dyes and behavior has been discussed in a separate CSPI report and petition calling on the FDA to ban most dyes.
Because of those toxicological considerations, including carcinogenicity, hypersensitivity reactions, and behavioral effects, food dyes cannot be considered safe. The FDA should ban food dyes, which serve no purpose other than a cosmetic effect, though quirks in the law make it difficult to do so (the law should be amended to make it no more difficult to ban food colorings than other food additives). In the meantime, companies voluntarily should replace dyes with safer, natural colorings. Home > Food Safety > Dangers associated with food dyes
Dangers associated with food dyes July 16, 2010 by Joel Fuhrman, M. D. Synthetic food dyes are used in many processed foods, such as colored breakfast cereals, candy, and “fruit-flavored” beverages and snacks. A total of 15 million pounds of dyes are added to the U. S. food supply each year. Our consumption of food dyes has increased 5-fold since 1955 as our nation has consumed more and more packaged foods. 1 [pic] These synthetic dyes have been linked to a wide variety of health concerns including behavioral problems, hyperactivity, allergic reactions, and even cancers.
Food-based dyes such as beet juice and turmeric are readily available, but are more expensive and often less bright, making synthetic dyes more attractive to food manufacturers. Food dyes and allergic reactions: Blue 1, Red 40, Yellow 5, and Yellow 6 have been reported to cause allergic reactions in some people. Food dyes and hyperactivity: Food dyes are of particular concern for children, since many colored foods are marketed to children, and their smaller body size makes them more susceptible to potential toxins.
Hyperactivity in children following ingestion of food dyes is well-documented in placebo-controlled studies. Furthermore, a 2004 meta-analysis of 16 studies in children who were already hyperactive showed that their hyperactive behavior increased in response to food colorings. 2 In a study published in Lancet in 2007, researchers tested two different mixtures of food dyes vs. placebo in children of two age groups – one mixture increased hyperactivity in 3 year old children, and both mixtures increased hyperactivity in the 8-9 year-olds. This study sparked a reaction by the British government. They instructed food manufacturers to eliminate all of these synthetic dyes by the end of 2009. In fact, starting later this month, a warning notice will be required on dyed foods in Europe stating that these foods “may have an adverse effect on activity and attention in children. ”4 As a result, several international food companies now produce products with food-based dyes or no dyes in the U. K. , but continue to include synthetic dyes in their U. S. products.
Food dyes and cancer: There are eight commonly used synthetic dyes in the U. S. , and all have undergone toxicity and tumorigenicity testing in animals. • Red 3 was acknowledged by the FDA to be a carcinogen in 1985 and was banned in cosmetics and externally applied drugs. However Red 3 is still used in ingested drugs and foods. • The three most widely used dyes (Red 40, Yellow 5, Yellow 6) which account for 90% of dyes in the U. S. are contaminated with low levels of chemical carcinogens, as byproducts of the manufacturing process.
Although the FDA places limits on the concentrations of these contaminants in the final dye products, they still may pose risks. • Citrus Red 2 added to the diet resulted in bladder tumors. • Red 3 resulted in thyroid tumors and caused DNA damage. The simplest and most effective way to avoid the potential harmful effects of synthetic dyes is to avoid processed foods. Unrefined plant foods contain health promoting phytochemicals, not empty calories and synthetic additives of questionable safety. When buying the occasional packaged food, check the ingredient list to avoid synthetic dyes.