Rainbow Risks: 6 Artificial Food Colors You Need To Know About

Did you know that about 15 million pounds of petroleum-based dyes are used in food each year, even though some are known carcinogens or pose other serious health risks? Yikes.

I became even more concerned when I read some of the statistics in the new book, Rich Food, Poor Food, which is due out this February, including this one: “Three dyes—red #40, yellow #5, and yellow #6—account for 90 percent of all dyes used. While still approved for use in the United States, many other countries have banned these chemical coloring agents.”

But before you swear off every treat you love with artificial coloring, here are the top six to look out for, as described by authors Jayson Calton, PhD and Mira Calton, CN:

Citrus Red 2: This product caused bladder tumors in animal studies and is banned for human consumption, except to color the skin of oranges. While it may appear to pose little threat, adding fresh orange zest to a recipe may mix in more than you bargained for.

Blue #1 (E133) and Blue #2 (E132): Banned in Norway, Finland, and France, studies have shown them to cause brain cancer and inhibit nerve-cell development. The colors are found in candy, cereal, soda drinks, sports drinks, and pet food.

Red #3 (E127) and Red #40 (E129): While Red #3 was banned [in the U.S.] in 1990 for topical use, it can still be sold on the market in our foods and beverages. That should make us all red in the face. Red #40 may contain the carcinogenic contaminant p-Cresidine and is thought to cause tumors of the immune system. In the UK, it is not recommended for children, and it is currently banned in many European nations. The dyes are found in fruit cocktails, maraschino cherries, grenadine, cherry pie mix, ice cream, candy, bakery products, and more.

Yellow #5 (aka Tartazine, E102): Banned in Norway and Austria, it contains the cancer-causing compounds benzidine and 4-aminobiphenyl. Six of the 11 studies on Yellow #5 showed that it caused genotoxicity, a deterioration of the cell’s genetic material with potential to mutate healthy DNA. It’s found in gelatin desserts, candy, pet food, and baked goods.

Yellow #6 (E110): Banned in Norway and Finland. Due to the same cancer-causing compounds as Yellow #5, it causes tumors in the kidneys and adrenal glands of laboratory animals. It’s found in American cheese, macaroni and cheese, candy, and carbonated beverages.

Information reprinted with the permission of Mira & Jayson Calton, authors of Rich Food, Poor Food, published by Primal Nutrition. Learn more about the book here.

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