Winners And Losers Of Food Coloring: October 2012

This month, the winners and losers of food coloring sort of evened out – despite the fact that it’s possibly the most dye-drenched month of the year.  A huge majority of the dye-related content I found online was just recipes for making creepy treats that resemble eyeballs, guts, and brains.  Those can all be made naturally without petroleum food dyes (except for the “black velvet cake” trend…uggghhh….if you find a natural black dye let me know, not that it’ll be life changing or anything), and I enjoy seeing how inventive people can be, so the ridiculous recipes won’t count as losers for this list.  If they did, this would be ten pages long.

If anything freaky sneaks up on me between now and Halloween, I’ll be sure to give it its own blog post.  Sleeping with one eye open until then…


Men’s Health magazine pointed out the “worst chemicals in your food“, and guess what?  Food coloring was front and center.  Bravo to them for getting the word out to mainstream consumers who may not be aware that dyes could be messing with their productivity.  Although, I wish they would have mentioned the cancer risks, for instance, green dye is related to testicular tumors.  That’s right fellas, your boys don’t like green sports drinks, vitamins, candy, or fake “peppermint” ice cream. Please share this article with all the dudes in your life.

Eco-Kids has made me very happy with their new plant-based, alcohol-free markers.  This is the same company that also makes natural liquid food coloring called “Maggie’s Naturals.”   Their range of marker color choices seems really good too.  I liked the Clementine Art natural markers, but they only have four colors and my daughter noticed a strong odor from them.  Good stuff from a family-owned operation.

People who answer Yahoo questions advising others that yes, in fact, drinking food coloring is bad for you.  I come across these questions posted online almost daily.  Most people just say, “The FDA has approved it for human consumption, so it is perfectly safe.”  I try to answer some myself to help set the record straight.  But I was pleased to see that someone finally said, “Um, NO.”  The word is getting out there.  People are realizing that the government trusting food manufacturers with the testing of their own food additive products is like Professor Quirrell letting Voldemort borrow his hat.  The risk for lies, and many headaches, doesn’t seem sane…and the two entities are just as enmeshed with each other.

Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) has released this video called “The Real Bears”, or what I like to call the Coke Bear Nightmare.   This speaks to my fascination with ridiculous marketing tactics.  I love the “happy!” billboard, the “Be happy please” vending machine, and the “Be happy dammit!” TV ad.  Yep, that’s about right.  You may want to watch this first without kids, because a couple of things may be too mature for them, and will at the very least raise questions you may not be ready to answer, depending on their age and sensitivity level (the mom and dad in bed…a gruesome consequence of diabetes, etc.  Plus I’m not sure that their solution at the end helps the fish so much…heh).

Schools are ditching Flamin’ Hot Cheetos in an effort to offer options with fewer additives, lower fat and lower sodium.  The manufacturer is marketing these hard to kids.  And let’s face it – they try to say that they don’t market to kids under twelve years old, but really, how many times has your young child been impressed with watching older kids do something in a commercial?  And not every kid on that video is over twelve, sorry.  This pisses me off.  I’ll be glad when all public schools stop using federal funding to sell non-nutritive junk to school kids.   More and more schools are catching on to the fact that some kids get most of their nutrition at school, rather than at home.  Soon you’ll see more salad bars in schools nationwide, if the government continues to provide those grants.  I don’t deny that as a school volunteer, I still see several “lunches” packed from home, consisting of “cheese” crackers, a tube of dyed yogurt, gummy “fruit” snacks (a.k.a. disguised candy), and dyed “sports drinks”.  Kudos to all the teachers and parents out there fighting for a healthier school environment.  We’re all up against some marketing giants, so starting to teach our kids about real food at a young age is crucial.

And now, for our losers.  Interestingly those Cheetos make a “reappearance”…you’ll understand that juvenile half-joke in just a minute… 


Color Run Races had me on the fence, while still leaning a little towards the “really??!!” side.  The Color Run people organize races all over the country to raise money for various charities.  That’s a good thing, right?  But for someone like me, who abhors and reacts to synthetic dyes, watching the PTSD-inducing “Be A Color Runner” video on their web site, slick as it was, made me feel like I was choking from all the powder being tossed around in slow motion.  I mean, the dyed temporary tattoos and small children running through clouds of neon were bad enough (dogs aren’t allowed, but kids are free! Sorry dogs…), but the fact that the dudes on the sidelines dousing runners with buckets of dyed cornstarch are wearing face masks didn’t help.  This isn’t much better than force-feeding brightly dyed “sports drinks” and doughnuts to the participants…only breathing it in rather than eating it causes faster absorption.   I’m wondering how many people had their first asthmatic episode, how many kids felt sick afterwards, and how many dye-sensitive and corn-allergic folks needed an entire week to recover after these events.  I envision a more messy version of the Day-After-Halloween-Ickies, complete with colorful handprints on walls à la Tobias’s Blue Man Group audition in Arrested Development

You’ve heard my opinion before about yogurt manufacturers that raise funds for breast cancer research by selling pink dyed “food”, the cups emblazoned with their research foundations’ logo and that pink awareness ribbon.  Ironically, food dyes have been linked to cancers, which is why I wish so badly that cancer foundations would limit their relationships to just all natural, dye-free products.  And I’m all for fun, but seriously, anyone who throws this crap at me in a 5K will receive a swift punch to the face. Not that I run in public very often.  And now I can add “powder phobia” to my list of excuses.  But all joking aside, I do hope there’s an opt-out for the color part of the Color Run, for those who want to help but don’t want stuff thrown on them.  Is that too much to ask?

Teachers who hand out junk “food” and drinks, especially after assuring parents that they would not. This is a hot topic of discussion amongst parents of kids who have food intolerances.  Now, I didn’t include teachers in general in my “Losers” list in August when school was beginning…despite the whole ironic and problematic “Jitter Juice” trend (some teachers handed out sugary dyed drinks and lollipop “stir sticks” for first day nerves…which I’m sure made lots of kids very jittery for many days after).  But there are some more practices that are alarming to me.  Some teachers withhold healthy snacks for undesirable behavior with one hand, while rewarding with synthetic dyed lollipops for good behavior with the other.  

I’m sorry, but those particular teachers should know better about basic nutrition, growing bodies, and allergies.  Most of all, they should be a model of good nutrition for the impressionable children in their charge.  I am very lucky that my daughter’s teacher does not use food for discipline, and she never withholds snacktime from my hypoglycemic kid.  If your kids’ teachers do any of these things, put your concerns in writing, and ask for a meeting with the teacher and principal.  Communication is key.  It could be helpful to have a 504 action plan on file with the school, so that all the teachers who work with your child know what to avoid.  Speak up for what your children need.  Students spend most of their day with these important influencers.  

This lady who dyed her dog green, and thinks it makes him behave better, is almost as bad as the cat-dyeing lady I linked to a couple of months back…maybe worse.  I’d stay under the radar too if I thought someone might dip-dye me at any moment.  Maybe his liver is swollen and about to fall out from toxic overload.  Or perhaps the dyes absorbed into the dog’s brain and rendered him an awesome but sluggish accessory.  No matter, as my daughter puts it, “That’s cruel.  He’s a living creature, not a piece of fabric!”  I tend to agree.

And now for that Cheetos epilogue.  The annoyance and mess of orangey-red fingers is one thing. Here’s a story about an uptick in emergency room visits for kids who turned up with bright red poop. It seems that those Flamin’ Hot Cheetos that schools are ditching contain enough red dye to freak out some folks.  My question is, how can any adult let their kids eat enough dyed junk for that to happen?   Apparently, some parents just need a visual to help them make the connection between non-nutritive junky food additives and their children’s wellbeing.  There are lots of healthier, more satiating, and often cheaper options such as cheeses, fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. 

Well, there it is.  Toilet of Terror and all.  Sounds like a Simpsons Halloween special.

Now in the spirit of this favorite holiday of mine, I want to give you a couple of treats too…to show you my gratitude for reading my ramblings.  First, here is a vegan candy corn recipe that looks pretty good.  Just substitute traditional food coloring with some all natural liquid dyes from Chocolate Craft, India Tree, Seelect, Maggie’s Naturals, and some of the ChefMaster dyes.  I’m attempting to make it this weekend with my kid.  I’ll be sure to write about the results.  If you try it, please let everyone know how it goes, here or on the Facebook page.  

Secondly, I’ve installed “CommentLuv” on my blog, so that you can showcase one of your own recent blog posts in your signature when you post a comment here.  (Yeah, I’m slow, I know.  This blog is a work in progress, kind of like a recipe you pull out of your…google searches). 

One more thing – you get to call this one.  Are these presidential cookies winners or losers?  Would you eat them?  I have a feeling that either of these designs would make me sick.

Anyone have a recipe for all natural third party cookies?  Anyone? 

On that note – please vote next month.  Become familiar with the candidates’ opinions about food policy and the Farm Bill.  And as always, vote with your dollars in stores.

You may also like:

The Food Coloring Story That Put Me Off My Baklava

Winners And Losers Of Food Coloring:  August And September 2012

4 Responses to “Winners And Losers Of Food Coloring: October 2012”
  1. My friend did a color run and said it was so much fun… too bad they couldn’t do it with natural colors. 🙂
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  2. Allison says:

    Thanks for all the info that you share! Incidentally, my boys and I found a great all-natural, homemade gummy fruit snack recipe on Pinterest. Ours includes only berries, unsweetened applesauce, fruit juice (we use orange), plain gelatin,,and a little water. I sprinkle in one packet of Stevia and my sons love these. They have no added carnauba wax or artificial dyes or any of that junk. Maybe you can try them out! Also, did I mention to you before a book I read last summer called Don’t Kill the Birthday Girl: Tales from an Allergic Life, by Sandra Beasley? i had bad food allergies as a child and was largely left to “police” myself as a kid at school, parties, etc. But Sandra’s story is a really good read. I am completely with you on the pink dyed offerings for cancer awareness and fundraising. I also am wary of things like perfumes that contain parabens or phthalates or formaldehyde or the like with the pink ribbon emblazoned it. These kinds of chemicals are often hormone disrupters that can lead to cancer. With more education, we could do more prevention, I think. Pacifica perfumes are great and do not contain those “baddies.” Not a commercial, just something I found that I like. 🙂 thanks for what you do to educate.

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