Homemade Natural Food Colorings

18 May

Now that summer is here, don’t be surprised if you hear a few more crickets on this blog page…

In 2008, The Center for Science in the Public Interest petitioned the FDA to ban the use of artificial food dyes based on some troubling links with hyperactivity, allergic reactions, and possible carcinogenicity.  The CSPI in a nonprofit organization that likes to get all up in the FDA’s buisnass.  Personally, I’m a fan.  If people are complaining about the adverse effects of artificial dyes, the FDA ought to listen up!  Many previously approved food colorings have been taken off the market after reported illness or other unfavorable reactions.  Food dyes are granted the “Generally Recognized As Safe” get out of jail free card.  This “GRAS” label = until you prove that this red dye is definitively causing your child’s hyperactivity or your mother’s tumor, it’s staying in your Cheetos!

Interesting Food Dye Facts: Red Dye #3 has been banned for use in U.S. cosmetics but is still allowed in foods.  Hmm…

The European Union has placed warning labels on some artificial colors and the Food Standards Agency (British equivalent of FDA) has asked food companies to voluntarily phase out these additives.  Unfortunately, the FDA does not appear to be interested in following suit.

Take a look at the remaining U.S. contenders:

Table 2
RED 3 Candy, Desserts, Baked Goods 241,265 260,851 Thyroid tumors
FDA tried & failed to ban it
RED 40 Beverages, Candy, Desserts, Pet Food 2,630,578 6,541,368 Lymphomas
(lymph tumors)
Banned in
(European Economic Community)
BLUE 1 Beverage, Candy, Baked Goods 260,417 1,802,634 Chromosomal
Banned in France,
BLUE 2 Pet Foods, Candy, Beverages 101,223 642,246 Brain tumors Banned in Norway
(pending FDA hearing)
GREEN 3 Beverages, Candy 3,597 13,747 Bladder tumors Banned in
YELLOW 5 Pet Food, Beverages, Baked Goods 1,620,540 4,231,420 Allergies, Thyroid tumors, Lymphocytic lymphomas, Chromosomal
Banned in Norway
YELLOW 6 Beverages, Candy, Desserts, Sausage 1,530,050 4,156,408 Allergies, Kidney tumors, Chromosomal
Banned in Norway,


For additional info related to the dangers of artificial food dyes check out: http://cspinet.org/new/pdf/food-dyes-rainbow-of-risks.pdf

For Derek’s birthday, his mom bought some white & brown frosted cupcakes with confetti sprinkles.  I had prepared a bunch of Feingold safe desserts ahead of time, so I didn’t feel deprived: brownies, chocolate chip bread, and chocolate frosted peanut butter cereal bars (Special K bars without the Special K).

Those colors though…they do some weird things to your brain.  Prepare yourself for an orgy of colors in this post!

Last Friday, I attended a Food Addictions seminar.  I received continuing education credits to learn about something that I consider to be infinitely interesting.  Other than the money I had to pay to receive such enlightenment, it was a pretty sweet deal.  The dietitian leading the lecture mentioned a study in which participants were offered a bowl of m&ms.  Those who were offered a bowl of m&ms that were all one color would eat less than those offered a bowl of multicolored m&ms.

Which one looks more appetizing to you?:




I rest my case.

I know it’s not a travesty for me to experience 1 month without rainbow sprinkles or purple frosting, but what about those who are lifetime Feingold followers?  There’s no reason a person shouldn’t be able to enjoy some additional color in their diet.  I distinctly remember eating green chicken noodle soup on Halloween and using red dye to make Christmas candy cane cookies as a child.  It was fun! (and kind of gross now that I think about it…)  Since all artificial colors are banned on the Feingold diet, I went on a hunt for some clever homemade natural food colorings.  Some made with berries were often mentioned but would not be appropriate for “Stage One” since they are high in salicylates.  Here are some of the better suggestions I stumbled upon that are considered “safe” on the program:

For dark green: juiced baby (lighter flavor) spinach

For light green: boil the spinach & use water that has been “bled” into


Two other options to consider: small amount of mashed avocado (particularly applicable to frosting due to high fat content and mild flavor; add a bit of orange/lemon juice to prevent browning!); TINY pinch of spirulina

Pink/Red: juiced/boiled beets, rhubarb, or pomegranate 


Purple/Blue: Red Cabbage



Yellow: juiced/boiled yellow beets, stale tumeric powder (fresh may be too potent tasting); warm-water soaked saffron

How pretty are these cupcakes?!


Orange: mashed sweet potatoes/yams/pumpkin

Peach: carrot juice

fun food beet and carrot snow cones


Brown: cocoa/carob powder


(Minus the apples of course – not allowed during stage 1 of Feingold)

Make sure to keep the dish you are preparing in mind!  Certain flavors will not meld as well together (duh).  Use your best judgment based on the recipe at hand and start with very small amounts of homemade dyes so as not to overpower your dishes with the taste of cabbage or algae!

For a more comprehensive list of additives to avoid on the Feingold diet visit: http://www.feingold.org/E-numbers.html

Other sources:





2 Responses to “Homemade Natural Food Colorings”

  1. Rebecca May 20, 2012 at 5:48 am #

    Yep the FDA in its backwards way, approves petroleum food colors until they’re proven unsafe, rather than proving without a doubt that they’re safe before approving the dyes. We can’t rely on our FDA to change – I mean China is ditching over a dozen artificial dyes for cryin’ out loud, and here we are still waiting for FDA to change their tune. So many huge manufacturers are switching to all dye-free without going out of business – so we know it can be done. It’s just that Kraft Foods, PepsiCo, Coke, and McDonald’s are gonna save a buck with cheap petroleum colors where ever they can (here), even as they have already removed the synthetic petrol dyes from their markets in Europe! We can do something – we can shift the American food system by voting with our dollars. A small change in the markets can be devastating to food manufacturers. Feingold and CSPI are both good resources, especially for finding dye-free replacement treats. I write about our own family’s dye-free journey on my “Die, Food Dye!” blog, and manage a Facebook page for folks who need help avoiding dyes.

    • thehungryguineapig May 20, 2012 at 6:18 pm #

      Thanks for your input Rebecca! Voting with my dollars is a practice I try to implement as much as possible. I also feel it is important for more people to become educated about the lack of oversight and to get inspired to take matters into their own hands. I will be sure to pay your blog a visit. I love how the internet allows common folks to connect over issues such as these. “Die, Food Dye!” indeed! 😀

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: