5 Ways to Avoid Artificial Food Coloring

Google+ Pinterest LinkedIn Tumblr

food with artificial coloringMaking cookies is totally a recipe for fun (pun intended). Consider the “ingredients”—rolling dough, cutting fun shapes, getting messy, and decorating with icing, sugars, and sprinkles—not to mention you get a sweet end product that makes everyone smile long after the kitchen’s been cleaned up.  While many parents are being more attentive to sugar intake (especially over the holidays), those vibrant colors that make these delectable confections look so eye-catching should raise a red flag, too.

Did you know that the European Union requires labels on foods containing artificial colors? And that the U.K. called for a voluntary ban on six artificial colors? Artificial food colorings used to dye icing, candies, flavored popcorn, yogurt, cereal, and macaroni and cheese have been linked to many health risks, which children are more vulnerable to than adults, says Christopher Gavigan. According to the Center for Science in the Public Interest, “Commonly used food dyes, such as Yellow 5, Red 40, and six others, are made from petroleum and pose a ‘rainbow of risks.’ Those risks include hyperactivity in children, cancer (in animal studies), and allergic reactions.” Despite these concerns, about 15 million pounds of these petroleum-based dyes continue to be used in food each year in the United States. No warnings. No labels. No nothing.

Gummy Bears

While common household American brands have replaced artificial colors with natural vegetable dyes in the foods they sell in Europe, here at home it’s up to you to take control of your grocery cart and keep those egregious ingredients out.

popcorn, macaroni & cheese

colored gum drops

How can you still enjoy your favorite treats without the worry?

1. Avoid products that contain names with numbers.  Make sure to read labels and pass on products listing Red No. 3, Red No. 40, Yellow No. 5, Yellow No. 6, Citrus Red No. 2, Green No. 3, Blue No. 1, and Blue No. 2.

2. Head to the produce section and the spice aisle. Pick up organic vegetables, fruits, and spices that can be used to color frosting and foods naturally—plus they offer the health benefits of cancer-fighting antioxidants.

Natural Alternatives to Artificial Food Dyes

3. Believe it or not, look for products that say color added. Milton Stokes, M.P.H. and R.D., shares in an Eating Well article, “Counterintuitively, the terms ‘artificial color,’ ‘artificial color added’ or ‘color added’ also indicate that nature-derived pigments were used since synthetic dyes must be listed by their names.”

4. Try these easy recipes for natural food coloring:

5. Join Healthy Child Healthy World in petitioning brands to remove fake dyes from their snacks.

Whatever recipes you choose, remember to have fun! And, go ahead, get a little messy—it’s nothing a little Honest bubble bath won’t take care of!


  1. Juliana_20

    Here in Brazil, from time to time, we eat savory pancakes, lunch or dinner!

    And a friend taught me how to make pancakes colored using organic foods to create the color!

    Eg: for a orange pancake I use carrot !

    My little brother loves!

    Using food as organic dye is an awesome way to encourage children to be healthy!

    In the future when I have kids, I’ll do anything to be healthy, and the tips of Honest will be very useful! =)


  2. I am pregnant and was horrified to find that the prenatal vitamin that my OB recommends has red dye on the ingredient list! Needless to say, I am not taking that recommendation!

  3. Hi Alison. We share your frustration that red dye is used is so many things — and places you’d least expect. Thankfully there are options out there without these additives. On a happier note, congrats on your pregnancy! We know it’s an exciting time.

  4. Nothing at Trader Joes has artificial dyes. It’s the one place I don’t have to label read. Whole Foods carries plant based food coloring that I bought for baking. My son [7] now reads labels and tells me when there is artificial dyes in something :). When he has dyes, he becomes completely unfocussed and hyper.

  5. Kris, thanks for sharing that Trader Joe’s has made a commitment to keep artificial dyes out of their foods. And that’s terrific that your son is part of the grocery shopping and baking process — hopefully we’ll arrive at a point where we won’t have to read labels to check for artificial dyes because there won’t be any anymore!

  6. Pingback: 5 Toxic Food Additives to Avoid - Honest Nutrition - Honestly... The Honest Company Blog

  7. Pingback: Healthy Valentine Treats: Dark Chocolate Mint Pears

  8. Pingback: Loving Yourself: Heart Healthy Foods + Habits

  9. Pingback: Artifical coloring | Fotobox

  10. Pingback: Ironing Out Iron Nutrition

  11. Pingback: Why Jessica Alba is Awesome

  12. Pingback: 5 Tips for Parents to Get Healthy Without Spending Extra Time - Honest Nutrition - Honestly... The Honest Company Blog

  13. Pingback: Chill Out With Healthy Homemade Popsicles - Honest Kitchen, Kidding Around - Honestly... The Honest Company Blog

  14. Pingback: Gear Up & Go Green: Eco-Friendly School Supplies

  15. Pingback: How to Give Your Pantry a Healthy Makeover - Healthy Home, Honest Nutrition - Honestly... The Honest Company Blog

  16. Pingback: 8 “Healthier” Foods That Aren't Always Healthy - Nutrition - Honestly... The Honest Company Blog

  17. Pingback: Avoiding All Food Dyes Is Nearly Impossible, So Which Ones Are Harmful? - Health, Nutrition - Honestly... The Honest Company Blog

  18. Pingback: What’s Getting Into These Kids? | realwellnessdoc

  19. Pingback: Homepage

  20. Pingback: Is Yellow 5 Bad For You? Learn The Truth! - howtocureyou


DISCLAIMER: Content on this site is not a substitute for professional medical or healthcare advice, diagnosis, treatment, dietary, or safety advice, and may not be used for such purposes. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified expert with any questions you may have regarding a medical question, condition, or safety concern. Reliance on information presented on this site is at your own risk. This site contains the opinions and views of others and does not represent the opinions and views of The Honest Company. Given the interactive nature of this site, we cannot endorse, guarantee, or be responsible for the accuracy or efficacy of any content generated by our users or bloggers.
Sign up for Honest Home emails
By entering your email you agree to our Terms of Service