Sensitivities to Food Coloring in Children

By Melody Hughes
Often red-tinted juice gets its vivid coloring from synthetic food dyes.
Often red-tinted juice gets its vivid coloring from synthetic food dyes.

The debate about food sensitivities in children has been going on for many years. As a parent, ultimately, you have to decide if you believe that food coloring or other food additives are negatively affecting your child. Children with sensitivities to food dyes may exhibit various symptoms ranging from mild to severe. The only way to determine if food coloring may be adversely affecting your child is to eliminate the suspected problem food additives from your child's diet to see if health and behavior improve.

Health Symptoms

Children with sensitivities to food dyes may exhibit various health-related symptoms. According to the Feingold Association of the United States, possible symptoms may include bed-wetting, migraines, seizures, ear infections, stomachaches, diarrhea, constipation, sensory input sensitivity, asthma and even cancer. If your child has experienced any of these symptoms, it may be wise to eliminate red and yellow food dyes. Red and yellow food dyes are the most commonly used food dyes and also are most often linked to adverse reactions in children, according to

Behavioral Symptoms

Dr. Feingold, a renowned allergist, believes a link exists between ADHD symptoms and the consumption of artificial food dyes. Possible reactions to artificial dye may include hyperactivity, impulsiveness and inattentiveness. Other behavioral symptoms may include emotional difficulties, irritability, oppositional defiance disorder, aggression, compulsive behaviors such as scratching, anxiety and depression. These behavioral symptoms may impact educational achievement and children may be diagnosed with dyslexia, dysgraphia and other learning disabilities. Before medicating your child for ADHD or behavioral disorders, you may want to eliminate red and yellow food dyes for a period of time (at least two to three weeks) to see if behavior improves after altering your child's diet.

Eliminating Food Colorings

To elminate food colorings from your child's diet, Feed Our Families suggests that you shop at places that refuse to sell products with food dyes such as Trader Joe's and Whole Foods Market. Also, you can carefully check food product labels for the presence of food dyes or search for product ingredients at the IATP Brain Food Selector website. According to Healthy Child Healthy World, common food items that often include artificial food dyes include flavored yogurt, juices, fruit snacks, pudding, gelatin, candy, baked goods and soda. asserts that red dye may also be in products such as Tylenol, but companies are not required to list red dye as an ingredient on the product label. Other prescription and over-the-counter medicines may contain either red dye or yellow dye.

Types of Food Dye

The FDA allows several synthetic food dyes to be used in U.S. food. These food dyes are all made from petroleum. The food dyes commonly used in our food supply include Red 3, Red 40, Yellow 5, Yellow 6, Blue 1, Blue 2 and Green 3. reveals that red #3 can also be used as a pesticide. According to, some previously used food dyes, such as Orange 1 Orange 2, Yellow 1, Yellow 2, Yellow 3, Yellow 4, Violet 1, Red 2, Red 4 and Red 32, have been banned due to toxicity or carcinogenic properties.

About the Author

Based in Laurel, Miss., Melody Morgan Hughes covers topics related to education, money and health. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English education from the University of Southern Mississippi, a Master of Education from William Carey University and a Master of Education from Nova Southeastern University.