Concerns Raised for Artificial Food Dyes in Jelly Beans
Artificial Food Coloring

Concerns Raised for Artificial Food Dyes in Jelly Beans


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Jelly beans are eye-catching, especially when it's time to celebrate. Yet, these bright colors can hide a serious health danger. Artificial food dyes are linked to many health issues, from behavior problems to cancer. For example, Red No. 3 can cause cancer in animals. It is found in many jelly bean brands and holiday candies1.

In 1931, the FDA approved six artificial food dyes for use. Red No. 40 was added in 19711. Even with growing evidence of their harms, like learning problems and inattention, the FDA's rules have not changed1. These food dyes make up 90 percent of the dyes used in the U.S.1.

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Children's health is majorly at risk from these dyes. Just a little Yellow No. 5 can affect kids' behavior1. Half of the reports on food dyes note they make kids hyperactive and unable to focus2. This shows a big issue with the safety of candies.

Good news is, some places are taking action. California has banned Red Dye No. 3 and is working to ban more dangerous dyes1. Some food makers are also doing their part, like Peeps. They're taking out Red No. 3 from their products after Easter1.

As people learn more about the dangers of artificial dyes, the FDA needs to keep up. Consumer groups and responsible manufacturers are key in making food safer. They're efforts can help cut down on these harmful chemicals1.

Key Takeaways

  • Jelly beans and similar candies often contain harmful artificial food dyes.
  • Red No. 3 has been found to cause cancer in animals and is present in many brands1.
  • Common dyes like Red No. 40, Yellow No. 5, and Yellow No. 6 account for 90% of food dyes in the U.S.1.
  • California has banned Red Dye No. 3, leading efforts for safer candy production1.
  • Food manufacturers are beginning to replace these dyes with safer alternatives1.

Understanding Artificial Food Dyes in Jelly Beans

Since the early 20th century, artificial food dyes have been widely used. These dyes got the FDA's green light as early as 1931. You'll find them in many foods like jelly beans, making them bright and appealing, especially to kids. But here's the issue: while these dyes add color, the FDA hasn't reviewed their safety since the 1980s. This is odd, given the growing health concerns.

History and Usage in Candy Manufacturing

In 1971, Red No. 40 got approved and became a go-to colorant for candies. Today, more than 15 million pounds of these dyes are added to our foods each year3. Despite this heavy use, the FDA's oversight hasn't changed. So, we still don't know the full picture on these dyes.

Jelly beans are filled with colorful dyes like Red No. 40 and Yellow No. 6. In fact, these two dyes make up over 90% of the US market3. They can cause health issues, especially in kids. For example, some kids develop allergies, hives, and asthma from these dyes4. Red 40, made from petroleum, can lead to allergic reactions as well4. Besides allergies, these dyes can affect behavior. They've been linked to hyperactivity and mood changes in children2.

Lots of parents turn to the Feingold Diet to help with their kids' behavior. This diet excludes food additives, aiming to curb hyperactivity and ADHD symptoms3. And it seems to work. Parents notice improvements in their kids' focus and mood when they cut out artificial colors2. So, even though they make candies look fun, these food dyes pose potential health risks. It's something both shoppers and rule-makers should think about.

Health Risks Associated with Artificial Food Dyes

Artificial food dyes pose big health risks, mainly for kids. The California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment warns about kids' special sensitivity to dyes. These include Red No. 3, Red No. 40, Yellow No. 5, and Yellow No. 6. Many studies show they can lead to problems with learning and focusing.

Jelly Beans

Behavioral Issues in Children

In 2008, the Center for Science in the Public Interest asked the FDA to ban these dyes because they're linked to behavioral issues. This includes being irritable and restless5. A 2004 review of 15 studies found that these dyes make kids more hyper6. Yellow 5 can even lead to hives and asthma in people allergic to aspirin6.

Link to Cancer

An example of cancer risk is the Red No. 3 dye, known to cause thyroid cancer in animals and banned in cosmetics because of this7. In animals, Yellow 6 caused adrenal tumors7. Red 40 and Yellow 5 might have cancer-causing substances, like benzidine, as contaminants6. Back in 1985, the FDA figured out that eating benzedine increases cancer risk. It was just below the "be concerned" level, at 1 in a million people5.

FDA Regulation and Criticisms

The FDA's rules on food dyes are behind the times and haven't kept up with new findings. Even though dye use per person has gone up in the U.S. since 1955, their guidelines are still from the 1980s5. Critics say the FDA hasn't done enough to handle these health worries7. This situation has made people worry more about the safety of treats like jelly beans.

Specific Artificial Food Dyes in Jelly Beans

Many people worry about the harmful chemicals in their favorite candies, like jelly beans. This sweet is often colored with synthetic dyes to look bright and fun. But, these dyes can be dangerous to health. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) has pinpointed some risky dyes used in jelly beans.

Jelly Beans closeup

Red No. 3 and its Risks

Red No. 3 might cause cancer in animals. It's in many jelly bean kinds and candies, despite its link to cancer. Even though it's banned in makeup, it's still found in sweets. This points out the need for stricter rules and more knowledge for consumers.

Impact of Red No. 40

Red No. 40 is a common synthetic dye used in the U.S. It's in jelly beans and has been connected to issues like learning problems in kids. U.S. dyes like Yellow No. 5 and Yellow No. 6 are also frequently used. Together, these dyes cover 90% of the dye formulas in the U.S. This mix raises concerns about the future health effects they may have.

Red No. 40 is deemed safe by the FDA. It is among nine certified safe color additives, which includes Red 40 Lake and Blue No. 28. Yet, new research and groups like the EWG keep challenging its safety.

Yellow No. 5 and Yellow No. 6 Concerns

Yellow No. 5 and Yellow No. 6 can affect behavior in some kids, with even small amounts causing problems. They're used in jelly beans and other foods. There's strong evidence they might cause learning difficulties.

California banned Red Dye No. 3 in school foods, and other states may follow suit. This kind of law is important for protecting kids from harmful chemicals.

The table below shows how common these dyes are in jelly beans:

Food Dye Presence in Jelly Beans Health Risks
Red No. 3 Yes Cancer
Red No. 40 Yes Behavioral issues, learning problems
Yellow No. 5 Yes Behavioral effects in children
Yellow No. 6 Yes Behavioral issues, learning problems

As more studies prove the danger of these dyes, the call for safer options gets louder. It's up to parents and consumers to know about these risks and ask for better safety rules. This is to protect kids from chemicals that could harm their health and behavior.

Consumer Safety and Market Pressure

People are worried about artificial food dyes, so some states are making big moves to keep them safe. California has led the way by making laws to protect consumers. These laws aim to keep people healthy by reducing their contact with these chemicals.

State Legislation Banning Harmful Food Dyes

Blazing a trail, California was first to ban four food colorings, including Red No. 3. This action was a major step in food safety9.

The law in California focuses on foods in schools and children's products. It aims to protect these groups from possible health risks related to synthetic dyes. Research shows that people in poorer or minority communities might consume more of these dyes. This is a disparity that the law tries to address9.

Response from Food Manufacturers

As a result, food makers have felt the pressure and are making changes. Big names like M&M's and Skittles are already free of Red No. 3 and other artificial colors9. This shift shows how consumer voices can change the industry for the better.

Groups have also asked the FDA to ban eight more synthetic dyes since 2008. These include popular ones like Yellow 5, Red 40, Blue 1, Blue 2, Green 3, and others9. By taking these colors out voluntarily, companies show not only a response to laws but also a keenness to meet consumer needs and safety desires.

Groups like the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend cutting down kids' intake of some drinks and snacks. This advice is in line with the efforts of laws and food makers. Everyone's aiming to keep unhealthy things away from kids and families.

Exploring Natural Alternatives

Today, people are noticing the dangers of artificial food colorings. Because of this, more companies are choosing natural colors. These alternatives are good for our health and address our worries about artificial additives.

Plant-Based Color Additives

Many companies now use colors from plants like annatto, paprika, and turmeric. These plant colors look great and are safe to eat. Authorities in charge of food safety approve the use of these natural colors, such as anthocyanins and carotenoids10. The use of anthocyanin from various plants as colorants is allowed in the European Union10. Exploring natures palette sheds light on the wide range of colors available from nature.

Benefits of Dye-Free Products

Choosing natural colors not only makes food safer but also attracts health-conscious buyers. For instance, Kraft changed their mac and cheese to use natural dyes. This move encouraged other companies to think about healthier color options. It also brings peace of mind to those worried about harmful food colors.

Consumer Awareness and Choices

People are more informed about the risks of artificial food colors. They prefer products without these synthetic dyes. This choice has led companies to change their recipes. Scientists have found many natural plant pigments, like anthocyanins and carotenoids, showing the variety of natural colors10. This includes reds from plants like tomatoes and oranges, and many more.10

Color Source Natural Dye Synthetic Dye
Red Beet Juice, Annatto Red No. 40, Red No. 3
Yellow Turmeric, Saffron Yellow No. 5, Yellow No. 6
Blue Spirulina, Butterfly Pea Petals Blue No. 1
Green Chlorophyll, Matcha Green No. 3
Orange Paprika, Carrots Orange B, Beta-Carotene



The impact of artificial food dyes in candies is huge. In the last 50 years, the use of these dyes has jumped by 500%. Children are the main ones eating these candies. This raises big worries about what we eat. Both the FDA and EFSA say these dyes are not that bad. But lots of studies show they can cause problems. For example, a study in 2004 found these dyes can make kids more hyper. This makes them act more annoyed or unable to sit still.

Pressure from the market and laws is key to changing food for the better. California has started banning harmful food dyes from school foods and kids' items. This is a step in the right direction. But making these products safe often takes time. A study showed more than half of those with chronic hives or swelling reacted badly to these dyes. This is another sign we need better rules to keep food safe6.

The food industry is changing, and people fighting for safer food are essential. These dyes are not just in candies. They are also in sports drinks, pickles, fish, and salad dressing. This makes their risks even bigger6. Even if the FDA doesn't change its mind, we can make food safer with our choices. More education and laws, along with us knowing better, will help. If you want to learn more, check out Healthline.


What are the health risks associated with artificial food dyes in jelly beans?

Artificial food dyes are connected to many health issues. These include troubles in behavior and development, as well as cancer. This is a serious matter because many seasonal treats, like jelly beans, are full of these dyes.

Why are artificial food dyes used in jelly beans?

Manufacturers use these dyes to make jelly beans look bright and fun. They want to catch the eye of buyers, especially kids. So, these dyes are not for health benefits but to make the candies colorful.

How has the FDA regulated artificial food dyes?

The FDA allowed the use of some food dyes since 1931. Red No. 40 was okayed in 1971. But, rules haven't changed much since the 1980s, even with new health findings. This lack of updates worries many about the safety of our food.

Which artificial food dyes are most commonly found in jelly beans?

Jelly beans mainly use Red No. 3, Red, No. 40, Yellow No. 5, and Yellow No. 6. These make the candies look vibrant and appealing.

What behavioral issues are linked to artificial food dyes in children?

Some studies say that these dyes might cause kids to be hyper, have trouble focusing, and struggle in school. This is a big deal, especially as kids love these brightly colored candies.

What is the link between artificial food dyes and cancer?

Research points to Red No. 3 as possibly causing cancer. Even though it's banned from cosmetics, it's still common in foods like jelly beans.

How have states like California addressed the issue of artificial food dyes?

California wants to keep harmful food dyes away from kids' school food and other products. They've made laws to try and protect children from any bad effects.

How are food manufacturers responding to concerns about artificial food dyes?

Because people are asking for safer food, some companies are ditching artificial dyes. Kraft, for example, uses annatto, which comes from plants, in its mac and cheese.

What are some natural alternatives to artificial food dyes?

For coloring food, there's annatto, paprika, and turmeric from plants. These are safe and healthy options instead of the risky dyes.

What are the benefits of dye-free products?

Going without dyes lowers the chance of health problems, like those seen with artificial dyes. It also meets the desire for natural food that many consumers have.

How can consumers make safer choices regarding food dyes?

To choose safer food, look at labels and pick products without artificial dyes. Go for foods with natural colors and support companies that care about health. Consumer know-how and action can push the food industry to do better.

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Ed McCormick

Chef Edmund

Edmund McCormick is the founder of Cape Crystal Brands and EnvironMolds LLC. He is the author of several non-fiction “How-to” books, past publisher of the ArtMolds Journal Magazine, editor of Beginner's Guide to Hydrocolloids, and author of six eBook recipe books available for download on this site. He resides in Far Hill, NJ and lives and breathes his food blogs as both writer and editor. You can follow him on Twitter and Linkedin.

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