Artifical & Natural Food Colours

Artifical & Natural Food Colours

Every child adores vibrant, bright-coloured foods  candies, puddings, cotton candies, ice-cream and fruit juice drinks. Did you know most of the colours used are artificial and could bring harm to them if taken in excess? Let’s find out more!

What is artificial food colouring?
Artificial food colours are derived from petroleum or chemical substances that were used to enhance the visual appearance of processed foods such as candy, snacks, beverages, vitamins and even fruit juice drinks or other products targeted for children. Companies like using them because they are cheaper, more stable and brighter than most natural food dyes. Examples include Tartrazine (Yellow), Allura Red, Sunset Yellow (Orange).

Are they harmful?
Despite food colouring is commonly used in processed foods, the majority of artificial colouring has been found to raise significant health concern:

  1. May causes hypersensitivity and triggers hyperactivity in children
    In multiple studies, Tartrazine (Yellow 5) has been shown to cause hives and asthmatic symptoms.1 Studies found that children with ADHD may have symptoms related to food dye and their symptoms are greatly reduced when restriction of the exposure to food dyes is applied.2,3
  2. Contain cancer-causing and toxic substances and may cause cancerous tumour development
    Some of the most widely used food dyes are contaminated with known cancer-causing compounds and widely used in candies, beverages, candies, cereals and baked goods. These were linked to accelerating the appearance of immune system tumour in mice, brain and bladder tumour in rats.4

Should I avoid them?
It’s a great initiative to minimise food dyes in our daily diet. If there’s a cancer risk running in your family, you should be more vigilant in limiting synthetic food colours.

While synthetic food dyes are created to have no flavour or nutrients, natural substitutes of food colouring has a ton of flavours and serve as a natural vehicle of vitamins or antioxidants such as carotenoids and anthocyanins! Here are some of our favourite ways of natural substitutes.

This article is written by Suet Kei (Biogreen Nutritionist) for Green Image Organic Enterprise Sdn Bhd. 

2Nigg, JT et al. (2012). Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 51(1), 86–97.e8.

3Arnold LE et al. (2012). Neurotherapeutics. Jul;9(3):599-609.
4CSPI. (2010). Food Dyes: A Rainbow of Risks. Washington, DC: Center for Science in the Public Interest.


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