Colourful and Toxic

Artificial food colours pose health risks

Colourful and Toxic

Artificial food colourings are harmful to children, but foods marketed to kids are often loaded with them. These common food additives aren’t good for adults, either.

There are over 200 different food dyes used throughout the world. Nearly all of them are artificial and made from petroleum byproducts. Since children are attracted to vibrant colours, food manufacturers are more likely to use artificial colours in children’s products. Many foods, drugs, and vitamins made for children contain artificial colours, which are especially detrimental to the health of children, whose immune systems are not yet fully developed.

Not Colour-Wonderful

Artificial food colours have been found to be harmful, even those that are permitted by the Canadian government. For example, tartrazine (FD & C Yellow No. 5) is a yellow colour found in almost all confectioneries, yet it can cause irritability, restlessness, and sleep disturbances in children. Studies have also found that artificial colour has a measurable effect on children’s central nervous systems and heart rates.

When children consume artificial colours, it weakens their immune systems, making them more vulnerable to allergies, skin rashes, colds and flus, and asthma. Artificial colours are known to cause DNA damage, which increases the risk of cancer. A study on mice conducted in Japan found that amaranth (Red Dye No. 2) induced DNA damage in the colon, glandular stomach, and bladder. Damage to DNA can also cause improper gene expression and reduce the body’s ability to repair damaged DNA.

In 2003, the US Food and Drug Administration issued a warning to hospitals about the potential dangers of food dye Blue No. 1 when used in enteral feeding (tube, sip, or oral feeding of patients), following 12 deaths and several adverse reactions. Health Canada has issued a similar warning. While no consumer would ingest artificial colours in this manner, long-term consumption of this dye is likely to cause damage to your body.

Say No to Artificial Colour

Do not assume that the government will protect you and your child from these harmful chemicals. For example, the newly formed Natural Health Products Directorate has okayed the use of many artificial colours in natural products. Watch out for labels that list artificial colour, colour added, FD & C, Blue, Red, and any other colours in the ingredients. Avoid purchasing products with these ingredients for yourself or your children. Look out for hidden artificial colours in prepared foods such as blueberry bagels, tandoori chicken, BBQ pork, or pickled ginger.

Give a copy of this article to your child’s daycare and to your friends and family with small children; encourage them to provide their children with snacks without artificial colours. Let’s work together to eliminate these harmful chemicals from children’s products.

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