Have you noticed the changing colors? No, not the leaves outside…the ones in the grocery store bakery and candy aisle. Well, most every aisle at the grocery store for that matter. It never fails. If you lose your calendar, follow the colors throughout the year and you’ll know what’s coming next. Red and pink in February, green in March, pastels in March or April, red, white and blue in May and July, orange in October, red, orange and gold in November and green and red in December. Well, at least here in the United States. What do we know about food coloring and kids?

Food Coloring and Kids Don’t Equal a Good Match

Many of the artificial food colorings and additives used in the United States are either banned or restricted in the EU. Of any that are still used, warnings are required on labels. (1) Read this then I’m going to ask you a question.

“May have an adverse effect on activity and attention in children.”

After reading that would you feed it to your child? That label is required in Europe, however many of the same ingredients are used in the United States. Many food companies scrambled to change their secret formulas-what do you think that label would mean for the companies that didn’t? It would be the death blow! Nobody who read that warning would continue to feed it to their child. Let’s be honest, most brightly colored foods are marketed to kids and parents of kids.

Food Coloring Doesn’t Change the Taste

I recently heard a story of a friend traveling in Europe. While they were dining at a restaurant one of the people in the party ordered an orange flavored soda. You know what I’ll say about the fact they ordered the soda, but that isn’t the point of this story. When the waiter brought it, they asked if it was lemonade. The waiter replied that no, it was the orange soda that had been ordered. You see, the artificial food coloring that makes the soda appear orange was missing, so it looked more like a lemonade than an orange soda! Guess what-it tasted the same. You know what else?! You can buy that same brand of orange soda in the United States. Guess what color it is. Bright, blazing orange!

In fact, many companies that market food in the United States with artificial food additives have different formulas for food marketed in Europe and overseas. This should tell you something. They have safer, natural alternatives from fruit and vegetable extracts instead of a petroleum-based product. They choose not to use them here. Are you ticked off yet?

For American Families Food Dye is Everywhere

Food dye consumption per person has increased five-fold in the United States since 1955, with three dyes—Red 40, Yellow 5, and Yellow 6—accounting for 90% of the dyes used in food. (2) Hmmm…what else has increased dramatically since that time? What are these kids eating for breakfast before we send them off to school? Fruit Loops? Lucky Charms? Do you see the connection between food coloring and kids. And we wonder why they aren’t able to focus on math!

Interestingly, it’s not just hyperactivity in kids that is a concern. Cancer tops the list of concerns for food colorings. Those artificial colors listed above are contaminated with known carcinogens. (3) If the idea of affecting children’s behavior isn’t concerning enough, that should be enough to make you reconsider that brightly colored bowl of candy or cereal.

The thing is, these colors are added to trick your brain into thinking that food looks more appetizing.  They aren’t needed. But if they are tricking your brain into thinking the food tastes better, what else are they doing? Good, organic, whole foods don’t need anything added to them.  Eliminate the processed food and you’ll eliminate these harmful artificial colors along with all of the damaging effects they have on the human body.

By Dr. Patrick Flynn

Learn about ADHD and kids in this short video with Dr. Patrick Flynn:


  1. https://www.food.gov.uk/safety-hygiene/food-additives
  2. CSPI. Food Dyes: A Rainbow of Risks.Washington, DC: Center for Science in the Public Interest; 2010. [[accessed 15 Sep 2010]]. Available: https://tinyurl.com/2dsxlvd.
  3. https://cspinet.org/new/201006291.html