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The Dangers of Artificial Colors and Dyes

by Bethaney Wallace on Jun 25, 2012

Reading the back of a soda or artificial juice label brings up many unfamiliar words. Ingredients such as dyes, additives, preservatives, and other artificial substances all make appearances on said label. High fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is another staple in these drinks – one that’s so popular it has even landed its own line of promotional commercials. But absentmindedly glancing over these words is one thing, ingesting them – especially on a regular basis – is a new act altogether. Without realizing what these items can do to one’s body they are often consumed without worry.

However, despite the U.S.’s attitude toward sugar and other artificial ingredients, these items are actually a great source of concern.

Artificial food colorings are one such cause, providing beverages and foods alike with a more rich or “appealing” color. They are aesthetics that come at a heavy price. Food colorings, including Red 3, Red 40, Yellows 5 and 6, Green 3, Blues 1 and 2, and more, have all been linked to potential cancer causing chemicals. These hues, some of the post popularly used dyes, may also cause allergic reactions to those of all ages.

The History

Back before food health laws or the FDA, food manufacturers used various items to make their products look more appealing. Bakers used chalk to provide their breads with a rich, white look, and candy was mixed with read and white leads, blue vitriol, vermillion (both contain mercury), and Scheele’s green (a carrier of copper and arsenic) to increase the intensity of colors.

Soon industries saw a market in food colors and dyes, and began to create products specified for manufacturers. Coal tar – made from combining coke and coal gas – was made into food colorings; this method is often still used today. At the time, while coal tar colors were safer than adding metals, as previous companies had done, the food and beverage dye practice was yet to be regulated by the government.

It wasn’t until 1938 that the FDA was given regulation rights for coloring materials. During this initial approval process, 15 combinations of synthetic colorings met approval, of which six are still in use.

Modern Day Consequences

Since recent testing methods have come into play, many artificial colors have been banned from use, with disease or health risk being cited as the cause. This includes Red 2, which was shown to cause cancer, being banned in 1972, and Red 32, Orange 1 and 2 for being toxic. These dyes were a source of controversy in the mid 50s when multiple children became sick post Halloween.While many of these dyes have been banned, it’s important to remember that they come from the same premise of the other dyes. Many of the same ingredients are used, and similar dying processes are practiced.

Artificial dyes have also been shown to increase hyperactivity rates, and increase the risk for disease, including several types of cancer, tumors, bladder issues, hypersensitivity, and even mutations. The more artificial colors a person ingests, the higher risk they are for these ghastly side effects. The best way to avoid these health risks is to eat a healthy and balanced diet free from artificial colors or dyes.

To find out more about the health risks of natural ingredients, check out the ZingAnything blog.