Adverse effects of artificial food colouring on children

effect of artificial food colouring on children

We are now consuming food dyes as never before. The statistics are not surprising when you consider all your food products from breakfast to ice creams are using more and more food colours. While naturals food dyes are available like Annatto, manufacturers choose synthetic food colourings which are quite dangerous for children. 

Food dyes like Blue 1 and 2, Citrus Red 2, Green 3, Red 3 and 40, Yellow 5 and 6 contains compounds like benzidine and 4-aminobiphenyl, that research has linked with cancer.


There are other problems associated with synthetic food colouring in children like allergies, hyperactivity, learning impairment, irritability and aggressiveness. According to a report by US-based Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), Food Dyes: A Rainbow of Risks, artificial food colouring likely are carcinogenic, cause hypersensitivity reactions and behavioural problems, or are inadequately tested.


Further researches have found that children who consumed conventional synthetic dyes displayed hyperactive behaviour within an hour of consumption. (These children had not been diagnosed with ADD or ADHD.) 


“We see reactions in sensitive individuals that include core ADHD symptoms, like difficulty sitting in a chair and interrupting conversations,” says David Schab, M.D., M.P.H., assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at Columbia University. Even so, says Schab, this isn’t the most significant issue to get rid of synthetic food dyes. “Foods with dyes are often riddled with other nutritional problems, like excess calories and fat,” says Schab, who points out that childhood obesity is a far greater public health concern.


A survey was done in North Kerala by the Food Safety Department, which revealed that the use of synthetic colours in sugar-based confections is posing a severe health risk in children. Out of 14 samples collected by the authorities, 97 per cent contained permitted colours while three per cent contained a combination of permitted and non-permitted colours.


Furthermore, the analysis shows that 82 per cent of the samples exceeded the prescribed limit of 100 ppm (parts per million) for permitted colours.

Studies on animals have revealed that Brilliant blue can cause renal failure, asthma or liver damage while Tartrazine is responsible for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, and sunset yellow causes adrenal tumour and hypersensitivity.


According to Chief Nutritionist Priya Bharma from Sri Balaji Action Medical Institute, “Artificial colouring helps to make food more captivating but at the cost of health, causing everything from hyperactivity and allergic reactions to cancer. Artificial colours are high in calories and less in nutrients and are mostly found in processed junk foods. For example, a royal blue dye found in candy, ice cream, cereal and snacks. Focus on eating whole and unprocessed food like dairy products, unflavored nuts, unpolished cereals, fruits and vegetables etc.”