Here’s a little on what research is saying about artificial dyes. Keep in mind that this is nowhere near a comprehensive list of all the research out there on this subject.
- Ever since the 1970’s, researchers have been looking at the possible relationship of artificial food dyes and hyperactivity. Forty years later, the evidence continues to build cautioning parents of children with ADHD to take a second look at the foods their children are eating.
- The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recognized in 2011 that artificial food colours and preservatives may be associated with adverse behaviours in certain predisposed children (e.g. children with ADHD), but further research is required. Even so, the FDA has kept its stance that artificial colour additives are safe to eat.
- The Food Standards Agency in the United Kingdom has also acknowledged the link between artificial dyes and hyperactivity, and the warning “may have an adverse effect on activity and attention in children” is required on any food and drink that contains any of six artificial colours.
- In one study by Joel T. Nigg and colleagues, the researchers concluded that “approximately 33% of children with ADHD may respond to a dietary intervention…[and] that dietary effects on and treatments of ADHD, including food additives and colors, deserve renewed investigation.”
- Another study agreed that artificial food colours are “not a main cause of ADHD, but they may contribute significantly to some cases, and in some cases may additively push a youngster over the diagnostic threshold.”
- Food manufacturers have also become aware of their health-conscious customers, and many companies are eliminating these artificial dyes and ingredients from their recipes. Among them include General Mills, Kraft, Panera Bread, and Mars Incorporated, just to name a few.
- If your child has ADHD, discuss with your doctor and dietitian if your child may benefit from eliminating artificial food dyes from his or her diet.
- Check the ingredient list on food labels. Artificial food dyes, like Blue #1 and Red #40, are required by law to be listed on food labels. See the complete list on the FDA website.
- Remember moderation. While you may be able to control which artificial food colours are in your family’s pantry, your child may be offered red fruit punch or blue cotton candy ice cream at a friend’s house or school party. However, if your child is sensitive to artificial food dyes, call up the friend’s parent or sit down with the teacher to discuss providing a possible alternative.
- In the kitchen, try swapping out artificial dyes for natural food colour sources (e.g. fruits, vegetables, spices, etc.).
On that note, I thought I would share my go-to “naturally pink” frosting recipe — just in time for Valentine’s Day! This recipe uses the vibrant hue of raspberries to deliciously dress-up any cake, cookie, or cupcake. The cookies I used as the base for this frosting is the shortbread-like Swig Sugar Cookies by Vintage Revivals.
“Naturally Pink” Raspberry Cheesecake Frosting
Yield: ~2 cups frosting
8 ounces (1 bar) cream cheese, room temperature
3 tablespoons raspberry puree* (made from two cups frozen raspberries)
1/2 cup white chocolate chips, melted
2 cups icing (powdered) sugar, sifted
- Using an electric mixer, beat together cream cheese, raspberry puree, and melted white chocolate until smooth.
- Reduce speed to low and gradually add the icing sugar until combined, scraping bowl with spatula as needed.
- Increase speed to medium and beat frosting once more until smooth.
- Refrigerate frosting until serving.
*To create the natural pink dye for the frosting: take frozen raspberries (that have been defrosted) and pulverize them in a blender or food processor to create a raspberry purée. Then pour the purée into a small saucepan and heat on stove over medium heat. Once the purée begins to boil, turn heat down to medium-low. Cook for another 10 minutes, stirring constantly, to thicken the raspberry purée. Remove from heat and pour purée through mesh sieve to remove any unwanted seeds. You can now use the strained raspberry purée in the place of liquid in any frosting recipe! When I made the frosting for this blog post, Liam was taking a nap so I just threw the frozen raspberries in the saucepan, boiled them down, and strained the berries without the puréeing step. (Liam is an extremely light sleeper and the noise of the blender would have woke him). The only downside of this was more food waste and less “dye.” But really, either way works just fine!