Food Additives, Part II

by Colleen Kaemmerer

Food colorings in the diet are a concern for many people. There is also disagreement about the effect that food dyes can have.

Artificial food coloring is found in many processed foods and medications. In ingredient lists, some types are specifically listed; others are simply referred to as "artificial color".

One dye, yellow #5, also known as tartrazine, must be specifically listed if it is an ingredient. It is used in many different food products and medications. In susceptible individuals it can cause symptoms such as bronchospasms and hives. Also, some aspirin-intolerant people can have cross-reactions to tartrazine such as asthma attacks, hives, and, rarely, anaphylaxis. Some of this is discussed in an American Academy of Pediatrics policy statement entitled, " 'Inactive' Ingredients in Pharmaceutical Products". The AAP states, in that same pharmaceuticals statement, that the current opinion is that dyes are not a "cause or aggravating factor" in hyperactivity.

However, many parents have found that food colorings, particularly yellow #5, affects their child's behavior. Parents find that tartrazine can aggravate the symptoms of ADD and ADHD; it can also have a negative effect on the behavior of some food-dye sensitive children who are not hyperactive. Different individuals can be sensitive to varying amounts. Also, some children can react immediately; others have problems 24 hours later.

© Colleen Kaemmerer

Colleen Kaemmererwas a contributing editor to's Allergies site.