Infographic: Just How Dangerous Is The Dye In Your Food?

Americans still consume food dyes banned elsewhere–charted here as the cause of some serious health issues.

They used to put cocaine in Coca Cola. Vegetables were once routinely covered in deadly DDT. Ever wonder what poisons you eat that will make future generations look back in horror?


In case you need something new to worry about, the answer could be food dyes, as a new infographic by illustrates. Titled “Colors to Die for: The Dangerous Impact of Food Coloring,” a liquid black skull introduces a rainbow of toxins found in foods Americans eat every day. These dyes can cause everything from chromosomal damage to hyperactivity to brain tumors to eczema. The main culprits are listed in a key, including candy (“Skittles: Taste the Rainbow” suddenly has a sinister ring to it), cereal (Froot Loops aren’t born that beautiful), beverages (orange soda does not contain oranges), and dog food (but dogs are colorblind!). Among the worst offenders are Yellow #5 and #6, which give Kraft Macaroni & Cheese that neon hue of nuclear waste.

Many of these dyes are already banned in saner countries, like France, England, Finland, Norway, and Sweden. So why do Americans still guzzle the toxins? Because it drives sales–we eat with our eyes. Nutritionist Mira Calton, who wrote Rich Food, Poor Food, says “Recent studies have shown that when food manufacturers left foods in their natural, often beige-like color instead of coloring them with these chemical agents, individuals thought they tasted bland and ate less, even when the recipe wasn’t altered.”

Americans are now eating five times as many food dyes as they were in 1955, and studies have linked this fact to rising rates of hyperactivity in children.

If this infographic freaks you out, let the words of 16th-century philosopher Paracelsus sooth you: “All things are poisons; nothing is without poison; only the dose determines whether there is a harmful effect.” So let’s hope that as long as you don’t mainline melted gummy bears or snort Kool-Aid powder, you’ll be okay.

About the author

Carey Dunne is a Brooklyn-based writer covering art and design. Follow her on Twitter.