Artificial Food Colors - HELP

Updated on July 12, 2010
M.R. asks from Gilroy, CA
13 answers

After reading an article on food colors (red, yellow, blue) I am experimenting with taking my 3 year old off all "yellow, blue and red" colors to see if it will improve his behavior. Does anyone know or have experience with items labled with "artificial color"? I have been avoiding the previously stated colors but just noticed my (large) bag of shredded cheese has "artificial color"!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (My kids live on cheese.) I cannot find any concrete answers of what exactly makes up/is in "artificial color". Does anyone know?

It's been less than a week since we started this experiment, but over the week, I have noticed a change in his behavior. He's calmer and a better listener. We went to a store which gives free food samples and I read lables before he ate anything, but his attitude changed once we got home and he may have had something that contained the term "artificial color" but not "yellow, blue or red."

Any help or suggestions would be appreciated. I also know that there are many "bad" ingredients in many food, but I cannot avoid every "bad" ingredient out there. I feel like they would be eating only fruits and veggies, which is NOT going to happen.

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So What Happened?

Thank you for all your responses. I am now even more vigilant about readying labels. Although colors may play a role in my sons behavior, I think there is more to is, as in wheat. So I have a whole new direction in which to take my quest...

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answers from San Francisco on


I've removed articificial colors and dyes from my five year old son's diet. And I've also removed other things like gluten and refined sugar. And yes, his behavior has improved a lot. If you can avoid the artificial colors and dyes, I would recommend that you do that. Also, be careful because the dyes are also in a lot of children's medications. Lastly, have you thought about buying raw milk cheese or organic cheese? That's what I do, and then I shred it myself. Whole Foods has a very good selection of cheeses. I usually buy the Organic Valley brand. They have both raw and pastuerized cheeses.

Good luck!

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answers from Portland on

A very large and well-controlled British study a couple of years ago confirmed that not only several common food colors (two of which are banned in the U.S.), but also the preservative sodium benzoate made hyper kids measurably more hyper. See a report here:

One other thought is that he may have other sensitivities/allergies that make him physically or mentally uncomfortable and hard to please. He might be sending out signals for help but have no real idea why, if he's just always at odds with his own body.

I have severe chemical sensitivities, and get both physical and emotional symptoms to exposures to perfumed toiletries, home cleaning products, fabric softeners and air "fresheners." In group testing situations, I have watched children go from contentedly coloring to bouncing off walls, screaming, crying, or being impossibly stubborn just minutes after having drops of some dilute solution squirted under their tongues.

It would be worth checking out. You can try sealing all suspicious products in plastic bags and using baking soda or vinegar for most cleaning for the next 2-3 weeks, and watch for any improvements in your son. If reintroducing the products (many of which are toxic, anyway) back into the home then results in worse behavior, you'll have a possible solution to work on.

I know this sounds like a lot of change, but it's really not that hard to try. Most of the household products and toiletries commonly used are really not needed, and they are expensive. We believe we need them because the advertising is so compelling. But I've used very little for cleaning in my home besides baking soda, white vinegar, borax, and scent-free detergent for over 20 years. My house always smells clean and pleasant – and visitors often remark that the atmosphere is "calming." I think their bodies are noticing the lack of toxins in the air.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Boston on

It is very hard to avoid everything that is "bad" for you. I myself can not eat alot of things that have the artificial red coloing in it. It gives me bad headaches.
Maybe if you just try to get rid of one "artificial color" at a time and see what ones make your son have different behavior. Then just avoid the one that make him really bad. Just about everything has artificial colors making it very hard to keep the intake to very little.
Good luck

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answers from Austin on

Real cheese is usually white. Try to purchase white cheddar cheese.. And other white cheeses.. Queso Blanco, Farmers cheese.... Also some people cannot tolerate any sort of aged cheeses.. keep that in mind also..

1 mom found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

First of all, congratulations for doing this,it isn't easy but it's so worth it. I did this with my son many years ago. He was allergic to corn and other things too so I monitored everything that went into his mouth. You can try one thing at a time and see the results like someone else said. If it were me with the colors, if in doubt...forget it. I wish they wouldn't put any of this stuff in our foods, our kids would be better off. And for the farmers market like someone else recommended, be careful. I realize they were talking about cheese but here is my story. I went to buy strawberries thinking that they would be "safe" and I don't know what made me ask but they had used pesticides, I was shocked because we tend to think farmers markets are so good for us, so it doesn't hurt to ask. Good Luck!



answers from Sacramento on

Not sure...but if you shop somewhere like whole Foods, everything will probably be free of that sort of thing.
I have heard the same to be true of processed foods as well, eliminating them helps behavior.



answers from San Francisco on

Hello Jrsut, It really sounds like you are trying to be the best mother that you can for your child. As the mother of 5 and the Nana of 12 I just wanted to add my 2 cents worth of thought, and Believe me many may think the world has just stopped spinning.
I have children that were the most adventerous and curious kids on the planet, if there was a mountain that needed climbing or a sunrise that needed seeing they did it and still do to this very day.I really believe they created Curious George after them.
I was so blessed to have a pedi. doctor that told us to be mindful but not crazy about the foods they ate or the sugar and things in it as long as they were balanced and healthy . I have one becasue of a medical problem we had to have solid proteins in t he morning so I made dinner for breakfast not a big deal to pop a roast in the oven before going to bed and lettnig it cook etc. , and I learned to make real macaroni and cheese and nothing that came out of a box. Since then I have learned to make a living as a cook.
So my advice is to be cautious and do what you can even if it means growing vegetables in flower pots as I actually do. Our little ones/to teens are ok with fresh vegetables but all seem to dislike frozen kinds. My own doctor becasueof a medical reaction recently told me to not worry about food colors in premade foods becasue the dangerous ones have been removed from the market, and that the trace amounts in the rest are able to be taken in limits so buy natural butter not margarine that is not healthy and the better grades of cheese instead of the cheap ones.
But your child may just be a natual child that is active and curious and since we have three 3 y/o in the family right now I can say that this is what they do best besides being glued to dad or moms hip ., or wanting to see each star come out each night and tell each star good night. It is so different with all of them so no child even within the family will be the same. Its not behavior as much as transition from baby hood to toddler hood to young childhood. It is all about changes and the true boundries you set and keep and they will want to test it over and over again til secure you mean it. Prepare him now for what you desire when he is a teen becasue it may be to late to get the message across then. My own kids said" I was a gentle tough love mom, as long as they didn't mess with me":o} Good Luck with your quest. Always remember that parenthood is an adventure much like a themem park ride- lots of twists and turns and a surprise around every cornor with a thrill a minuet and at the end of it you are going to catch your breath and then say HEY LETS DO IT AGAIN!
Just remember all the great things you can get naturally from the area surrounding you in Gilroy all year round.



answers from Redding on

A nutritionist came to my mommy's group and talked about food dye being a huge problem for many children. I specifically remember her talking about red food dye (but she might have mentioned others). She said that food coloring (at least red) is petroleum based and children that are sensitive to the dye are also often sensitive to gasoline smell when you fill up. She specifically mentioned that red food dye causes aggression in children that are sensitive to it. I don't have any first hand information, but it sounds like it is out there if you are willing to do a little research and that you may very well be on the right track with this hunch about your children. I also remember reading in a natural parenting magazine that an easy way to remember what food colors to avoid is by stop light colors (no red, little or no yellow/orange, blue/green is not as bad).



answers from San Francisco on

Unfortunately there is sometimes artificial color in foods that aren't marked that way and some in unsuspecting foods. I have a son allergic to red dye so label reading is a must. It takes research to do this and unfortunately some experimenting happens where the dye unexpectedly presents itself. Red dye for example can be in white drinks, salmon, medicine, pepperoni, cinnamon, jam, etc. Small traces can be in so many things. If you don't have a child that is allergic to it, the small amounts probably won't mean as much and water can always help to dilute it. I'm not sure how the elimination helps with behavior but the one son with the allergy is a calm child. Behavior with active children is a challenging aspect. It's hard to completely eliminate everything even when you're vigilant but once you find recipes that work and brands of snacks that are dye free or use vegetables like beets to dye them, you learn to have staples that work without worry. Best of luck.



answers from San Francisco on

I'm not 100% sure about this, but I think the food colorings to be avoided are always identified as such -- Blue #5, etc... Cutting those out will give you a marked difference.



answers from San Francisco on

The best way to avoid artificial ingredients is to buy organic foods. Although they can be expensive, many large grocery stores carry organic products at good prices, such as Safeway and Trader Joe's. Whole Foods is the ultimate and you might be surprised if you compare prices -- sometimes they are cheaper than Safeway! Also, try to buy from your farmers market -- I'm sure there are local cheese makers in the Gilroy area where you could buy cheese directly and in large enough amounts to make them affordable. And of course they've got lots of fruits and veggies that are purely natural. Foods in their "whole form" are going to be your best bet and can be very affordable.

Also, for more information on food additives and behavior, try Doris Rapp's book, "Is this your child?"



answers from San Francisco on

Anything labeled artificial color is colored with artificial ingredients. Most yellow or orange cheese is colored with annato that is natural and comes from vegetables. I am sure you can find a cheese that is colored with annato rather than artificial colors. One thing to watch out for isn meat products. Meat is regulated by the USDA not the FDA so food labeling laws don't apply to meat. You need to ask the butcher at your grocery if the meat has anything added to it. Many meats do have food coloring and broth solutions added to them to make them appear nicer.



answers from Bakersfield on

Hi Mama-
The artificial color in cheese is anetto. It's what makes cheese orange.
My advice is to stick with white cheeses, as they are uncolored.
You can also buy white cheddar if you are huge cheddar fan like me.
The best deals are string cheese (what is that, mozzarella?), jack cheese, swiss, provalone, and white cheddar at costco. Sometimes tillamook will sell a white cheddar at places like wal mart, and that is in a black plastic wrap. At costco, there are alot of really nice cheeses, some cheaper than others. My fav is a vermont white, aged 7 years. I can only find it every once in a while. Also, there is a dubliner irish cheese and one from the isle of man in a white wrapper with an English flag. Depending on how much they go through, these can be treats and the string cheese or white cheddar in bulk can be for sandwiches. I don't know if they sell it sliced or not, but your kids health verses having to slice some cheese is a no brainer.
I applaud you for checking these things out. I don't think a lot of people realize that so much of what you put into your body now days is a chemical. And what that can do to your mind and your body can be detrimental to your health.
Good luck
I hope this helps
-E. M

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