You Are What You Eat: What exactly are our kids eating?

Could artificial food dye be linked to your child’s behavior?

Food dyes- you find them in everything from candy, to potato chips, to soft drinks, and even toothpaste.  They are used to make products, particularly food, colorful and enticing. However, they add zero nutritional value.  Instead, these additives have been linked to causing hyperactivity in children. Popular food dyes include Yellow #5, Yellow #6, and Red #40.  Now guess what these dyes are made from? Petroleum and lab chemicals!  Why would any parents want their children ingesting anything made with these ingredients? Especially when we could be feeding them similar foods that are all natural.

In 2011, the U.S FDA recognized that artificial coloring can cause behavioral problems in certain children. However, they do not believe that such food dye is solely linked to hyperactivity. They did release a statement saying: “…for certain susceptible children with ADHD and other problem behaviors, the data suggest that their condition may be exacerbated by exposure to a number of substances in food, including, but not limited to, artificial food colors” but concluded that additional research must be done. The FDA voted against requiring warning labels on foods that contain these dyes.  Independent food chains, however, have taken matters into their own hands.  Grocery stores like Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s do not sell any products that contain synthetic dyes.

Could artificial food dye be linked to your child’s behavior?

After much research on the relationship between artificial dyes and children’s behavior, countries like the UK have decided to take control and make their own decisions on this topic.

 In 2010, the European Union required warning labels to be placed on all foods containing artificial food dyes stating that they, “May have an adverse effect on activity and attention in children. “ Many companies, though, are choosing to use natural dyes for coloring instead of having to use a warning label on their products.  This means that American companies such as Kraft and General Mills did away with artificial dyes overseas, but did not make the change for American consumers. For example, McDonald’s Strawberry Sundae sauce is colored with real strawberries in the UK, while in the US it is colored with Red dye #40.

 Unfortunately for Americans, it has been left up to the consumer to decide whether or not to be on the lookout for foods that contain dyes. This involves checking nutritional labels and being aware of companies that use these artificial colors.  Therefore, it is very important that we recognize what we are feeding ourselves and our families and make a conscious effort to eliminate certain products from our diets.  Once more people understand the potential consequences of consuming artificial dyes and processed foods, they can make an educated decision to rid it from their lifestyle and make healthier choices in the future.


By: Rachel Durante, OTR/L


Facts all parents should know:

   Only 7 artificial dyes are left on the FDA’s “approved list”; over 75+ dyes have been banned since 1906.

  Americans consume five times as much food dye as they did in the 1950s

  In 2007, a study done in the UK determined that 6 of the remaining dyes were linked to hyperactivity in children, thus foods containing these dyes now require a warning label.

  Red Dye #40 is banned in Denmark, Belgium, France, Switzerland, and Sweden (and being phased out in the UK)

·    Mars has removed all artificial dyes from Starburst Chews and Skittles, and has begun removing all dyes from M&M’s in the UK but not in the U.S


Evaluation of Studies on Artificial Food Colors and Behavior Disorders in Children.

United States Department of Health and Human Services Food and Drug Administration

 Smart Guide to Food Dyes: Buying foods that can help learning