There's something that can make my youngest son a complete terror. It lurks and hides in inconspicuous spots such as ice cream and brightly colored processed foods. My son jokes about eating it but really, it makes him feel angry and gives him an out-of-control feeling. It also makes him feel ill and has even been known to cause an asthma attack. What is it? Tartrazine. It also goes by the name Yellow 5.
Tartrazine is used in yellow-colored foods such as puddings, jello, soft drinks, ice cream, cereals, candy and even some brands of spaghetti. I often wonder how many kids that are misdiagnosed with ADD, ADHD or other behavioral issues are actually sensitive to food colorings such as Tartrazine. Red #3 (Erythrosine) is another big one that is on the "safe list" but there are legitimate concerns that it can cause gene mutations, cancers or changes in brain chemistry. Since there is not enough clear evidence, the FDC keeps Red #3 on the safe list and does not have to be listed on labels except as "artificial color".
What bothers me most about the use of food colorings is that manufacturers DO have other, healthier, options. The problem is, these options are more expensive. Natural colorings that are found in beets, carrots, blueberries, etc. can and ARE used by companies in the natural food business. My favorite store, Whole Foods, will not sell any items in their stores that have artificial colorings. YES!!
My son isn't the only one in our family who is sensitive to Tartrazine. My sister experiences migraines and an overall sense of frustration after consuming it. I also have a cousin whose daughter is affected by it as well. I can't help but think that more people are affected than we realize. Of course, Tartrazine (and any food coloring) is something that we try to avoid as much as possible!
Obviously, Yellow #5 and Red #3 are not the only food colorings out there. Red #40, Blue #1, Blue #2, Green #3 and Yellow #6 are all used and, while some are considered "safe", there are definite questions about others. I hope that more and more consumers push food manufacturers to replace their artificial colorings with other suitable, healthier options.