Food Coloring Americans Eat that are Banned in Europe

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Brightly colored baked goods! We think we are giving our children a special treat but what are we really exposing them to?

Food colorings are added to fruit drinks, beverages, frozen desserts, gelatin desserts, baked goods, jams, popsicles, candy,  child-oriented breakfast cereals and snack foods, and countless other products to hide the absence of fruits, vegetables, or other ingredients and to make the food appear better or of greater value than it is.

Many studies show that some additives can lead to cancer development or lead to damage of nerve tissue. And some experts feel there is a relationship between food color intake and behavioral problems. Children, because of their small size and potential for eating more coloring, are particularly vulnerable.

Many potentially harmful color agents used in the U.S. are banned in Europe. If you live in Europe you may have more options than Americans, as you may be able to find some processed foods that do not contain any synthetic color because many food dyes that have been shown to cause cancer in and associated with behavioral problems in children are banned throughout Europe by European Food Safety Authority. (The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) is the E.U.’s comparative authority to the FDA in the U.S.)

Because of the ban from other countries, U.S.-based food manufacturers actually develop separate products made from natural ingredients for sale outside of the U.S. For example, Starbursts, Skittles, and Nutri-Grain bars sold in the U.K. don’t contain artificial dyes as they do here in the U.S.

The Strawberry Nutri-Grain bars sold in the U.S. use Red No. 40, Yellow No. 6, and Blue No. 1, while the equivalent product sold in Europe contains beetroot red, annatto, and paprika extract for its coloring.

In the U.S. Fanta orange soda is dyed with Red 40 and Yellow 6 and in Europe, it is dyed with pumpkin and carrot extract.

In the U.S. McDonald’s Strawberry Sundaes are colored with Red dye 40 and in Europe McDonald’s Strawberry Sundaes are colored with strawberries.

Limit Your Child’s Intake of Food Color! The easiest way to avoid food color additives is to eat whole, unprocessed foods. Eating a balanced diet of fresh produce and whole grain foods will go a long way towards keeping additives out of your child’s system. Organic packaged and processed organic foods have little or no added synthetic colors or preservatives. Food additives are largely present in processed and packaged foods and “junk” food, so if you limit those foods, you’ll cut down considerably. Teach your children to avoid brightly colored processed foods and to scrape off the colored frosting on baked goods.

Read food labels and particularly keep an eye out for the following:

COLOR: BLUE 1 and 2, GREEN 3, ORANGE B, RED 2, 3 and 40, YELLOW 5 and 6

We must challenge the U.S. food industry to discontinue the use of banned ingredients that are not allowed elsewhere in the world. If you’d like to take action you can write to the FDA:

U.S. Food and Drug Administration
Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition
Outreach and Information Center
5100 Paint Branch Parkway HFS-009
College Park, MD 20740-3835

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