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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Eat the rainbow

Hallie Bolonkin
Hallie Bolonkin / Arizona Daily Wildcat Food Dye

Bright and colorful processed foods may be keeping your refrigerator stocked, but the use of certain food dyes have shown to foster negative effects.

Tests performed in mouse models have shown at times to have a link between food dyes and cancer, said Michelle Bratton, an oncology nutritionist at the Arizona Cancer Center.

“”A lot of times, they may try to enhance the natural color of a food by adding a food dye to it,”” Bratton said.

Food dyes are typically found in processed food. They can be seen in packaged fruit bars, sweetened cereals and frozen entrees. The more processed the food is, the more likely the chance there will be a food dye in it, Bratton said.

While not all food dyes have shown to have potential health risks, some have presented negative effects.

Red 40 is the most widely used and most-tested food dye and can be found in soda, candy and pet food. This dye has shown to cause allergy-like reactions, according to the Center for Science in the Public Interest. Flaws were found in mouse model tests and the Food and Drug Administration said the findings would not be considered harmful, according to the center.

“”I don’t like sweets,”” said Jordan Gietz, a pre-business freshman. “”I’d rather eat cooked meals than frozen food.””

Kathryn DeSandro, an English sophomore, said she occasionally drinks soda and sometimes eats candy. Knowing that certain foods may have potential health risks makes her worry, she said. The FDA runs a lot of tests though, so DeSandro said she isn’t very concerned about it.

Yellow 5 food dye can cause hyperactivity in some children and allergy-like hypersensitivity in aspirin-sensitive people, according to the Center for Science in the Public Interest. It also may have cancer-causing contaminants. Yellow 5 can be found in foods such as gelatin dessert, pet food and baked goods, according to the center.

Gietz said he tries to stay away from preservatives and even his dog eats organic food.

Manufacturers could use food-based dyes instead, which are thought to be safer, Bratton said.

“”There’s more natural things they can use, but they may not provide those bright colors, and I think in our society we kind of come to expect that,”” she said.

There may not be a willingness from manufacturers or consumers in the United States to accept products that do not have bright colors, Bratton said. For example, people expect to see a bright red color for a strawberry cereal bar or a bright blue for a blueberry-flavored snack.

DeSandro said she likes to eat brightly colored foods, especially fruit.

“”In European countries and in Britain, they are kind of making a shift away from synthetic dyes and using more of the food-based dyes,”” Bratton said.

In an October 2008 issue of Nutrition Action Health Letter, it was stated that the food dye used in a McDonald’s strawberry sundae was Red 40 in the U.S, while in England, the coloring source for the sundae came from real strawberries.

“”I feel like we should do the same things they do,”” Gietz said. “”It should be more about the quality of it.””

The important thing to remember is that it is unknown whether food dye, additives, sugars and fats are the cause of an increased risk of cancer, Bratton said. It may be that eating processed foods contributes to the lack of healthy whole food components someone consumes.

“”As we eat more of those processed foods, we typically eat less vegetables, we eat less fruit, we eat less whole grains,”” she said.

From a cancer perspective, Bratton said she advocates a plant-based diet with lots of fruits and vegetables.

“”The bright colors that are naturally occurring in fruits and vegetables are incredibly pleasing to the eye and can make a very healthy plate,”” Bratton said.

If someone is looking for a healthy meal, the phrase “”eat the rainbow”” is the way to go, she said.

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