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The color of trouble

Before I started Spoonfed, I began collecting “kid food” advertisements with the intention of skewering them on a regular basis. But as those torn pages piled up, I realized they were all the same.

Different products, different gimmicks: Lunchables give kids brain power! Pop-Tarts are the cornerstone of a balanced breakfast! McDonald’s is healthy for hipster moms and their stylish offspring!

But the same message: Kids are dumb. Parents are tired. Let’s distract them with bright colors and voodoo nutrition. (Then laugh all the way to the bank.)

Look, Mom, petroleum!

So I tossed the pile. And all the ads since have blurred into each other like a bad dream. Then this one caught my eye:

It’s Kool-Aid telling us to “change the way your kids see water.” Water. Because apparently water now is as vile to the wee, senseless ones as spinach and (white) milk.

But it’s not even that someone is trying to sell parents on tricked-out water (hello! sports drinks!). It’s that the main appeal of this tricked-out water is that it’s bright red (or purple or yellow, if you go with Gigglin’ Grape or Laughin’ Lemonade instead of Partyin’ Punch). Kool-Aid Fun Fizz isn’t touting better nutrition or bigger brains. These “drink drops” are all about making water “fun.” And, really, at “just 5 calories,” who cares about those 16 (at least) ingredients?

Yet, as I’ve written before, artificial colors are the charlatans of food additives: enticing, seemingly harmless… then wham. Linked to long-term health problems, these petroleum-derived chemicals often have immediate and devastating effects on children’s behavior and ability to learn. And unlike when we were kids (and our parents were kids), artificial colors are in everything, from food to toothpaste to medicine, even things that are white or look natural (check your pickles and “blueberries” ). Since 1955, that’s added up to a five-fold increase in dye consumption. Not. Good.

Some kids are ultra sensitive to food dyes (and other food additives, too). But even kids without that wiring can go nuts fast. I’ve seen it with my own daughter, a wild child within minutes of eating grocery-store birthday cake at friends’ parties. (It’s not the sugar, folks.) And with schoolmates who bring neon-frosted cupcakes for snacks, and dye- and preservative-laden Lunchables for lunch, then can’t listen or concentrate. It’s to the point where I actually feel ill watching kids eat this stuff.

Thanks to hard lobbying by the Center for Science in the Public Interest, the Feingold Association and concerned parents, the FDA will finally be examining the dye-behavior connection with a hearing in March. I don’t expect speedy resolution, but it’s progress. In the meantime? Read ingredients, ask questions, be diligent. And remember, as school-food activist Susan Rubin notes in this recent post, it’s not just about what your kid eats. It’s about what every kid around your kid eats:

“I point to this blue slushie and talk about second-hand smoke. If just one kid is bouncing off the walls because of some Skittles or other crazy colored/flavored junk, every kid in that classroom is impacted. The teacher has to work harder to gain the attention of the entire class.”

My daughter’s teacher gets it, so while I can’t control what individual kids bring for their own consumption, we have been able to avoid food dyes (and other junk) for classwide celebrations. I also love this idea from Nourish MD about a “real red” Valentine’s Day class party, where the kids talked about artificial colors and brainstormed naturally red foods. (Thanks to Food with Kid Appeal for that V-Day heads-up.)

Now. One last thing. Join me as I say goodbye to the final color fix left in our lives: The Birthday Cake.  As I explained here, we’ve long avoided food dyes as a rule, except for the birthday cake I make my daughter each year. All the other ingredients are wholesome, but then I go and junk it up with petrochemicals. I mostly blame inertia. It’s once a year, I view these cakes more as decoration than food, and I figured I’d never find natural dyes as vibrant as the fake stuff. But I’ve grown increasingly wary of food dye in any amount. The effects are too obvious, and the remedy too easy. So I got myself a set of India Tree dyes and, voila.

As luck would have it, Tess wanted a doll cake for her recent birthday, which meant I got to use the same mold I used for her mermaid cake last year. Which means I now get to do dramatic (not really) before-and-after shots:

Queen of the (neon) sea vs. nature girl

We served the cake with good ice cream, and raspberries and clementines on the side. (And water. Plain, clear water.) Nobody bounced off the walls or climbed tables or otherwise dissolved in chaos. But there was silliness and the limbo and flapping of butterfly wings. Fun fueled by little girls, natch.

Thoughts on neon food, red water, ballistic children? How do you deal with the dyes?

This post is linked into Fight Back Fridays and Food Revolution Fridays.

Digiprove sealCopyright protected by Digiprove © 2011 Christina Le Beau
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{ 130 comments… add one }

  • Milehimama January 22, 2011, 8:11 pm

    We’re still working on finding affordable substitutes for food dyes. Recently I wanted a bright green for something sweet, because my son’s class was making Christmas stuff at their “party” but he cannot have food colors. But, I wanted the homemade, natural stuff I sent with him to match what the other kids had.
    Bright green natural is hard to find. I did find some intriguing info on making a true blue from cabbage that I keep meaning to try.

    We pretty much have the yellows, purples, and pinks down. Usually I just boil down some frozen berries, give them a go in the Vitamix, then strain through a fine sieve to get a natural dye. Brown is easy, of course (cocoa).

    It is REALLY frustrating how many products the dyes are in! Even WHITE marshmallows. Even chocolate cake mix off the shelf. It’s just everywhere.

    • Christina January 22, 2011, 8:23 pm

      Milehimama, that bright green is hard. My sister tried the India Tree dyes for Christmas cookies this year and couldn’t get a good green. Too bad that’s the aesthetic we’ve gotten used to because of fake dyes.

      • Amanda April 26, 2012, 12:09 pm

        How about juiced kale or spinach for the green? Honestly, masked with the sugar already in a cake you cannot taste it.

    • Kim January 24, 2011, 3:42 am

      I wonder whether spinach would work for a vibrant green coloring. It seems to me I saw someone use it as a coloring on a cooking show. I recall that raw spinach was pureed in a blender or food processor but I don’t remember what else they added to smooth it and thin it out….maybe just water.

      • Christina January 24, 2011, 11:43 am

        Kim, we tried spinach for Easter eggs last year and it didn’t take at all, but that could be because we used brown eggs instead of white. It’s certainly worth a try with frosting.

        • Kim January 24, 2011, 3:42 pm

          Since the discussion was about birthday cakes, I was thinking of using it to color something like icing where it would be added to the food. Coloring eggs (staining them really) is trickier. I assume you included some white vinegar in your egg dye mixture as you would with any other dye when coloring eggs. I guess I’m not completely surprised it didn’t take on eggs, though. I don’t usually notice spinach staining things. Maybe you need some good old grass stains on your eggs! Seriously, I wonder if there’s some green herb that would stain. Or another leafy green like kale Just thinking out loud here.

          • Christina January 24, 2011, 6:04 pm

            Kim, we didn’t use vinegar. We used a method where you dye eggs on the stovetop, in pots as the fruits and vegetables cook (and most of the other colors worked well). But we’re trying some new tricks this year, so I love everyone’s input. I’ll also post again about this closer to Easter.

      • Valerie January 26, 2011, 9:16 am

        I have indeed used pureed spinach to color frosting. It came out a great light green color, quite bright. The only thing I was worried about is that some people (“supertasters”) are genetically wired for leafy green vegetables to taste REALLY bad to them. I don’t have that gene, so I can’t taste the bad taste at all. The frosting tasted great to me, just sugary, not like spinach at all. But I worry that to someone with the supertaster gene maybe the frosting might have tasted completely revolting.

        Other colors I’ve used are beet juice for an amazing bubble-gum pink (it only takes a tiny bit of beet juice to make things *really* pink), and orange juice for sort of a yellowy color. A mix of orange juice and beet juice made fabulous flesh tones.

        • Christina January 26, 2011, 9:25 am

          Valerie, that’s great to know about the spinach. And you reminded me that I once used either pomegranate or cherry juice (can’t remember which) to make pink frosting. And orange juice to tint cream-cheese frosting (which tastes great, too).

        • jenna Food WIth Kid Appeal January 26, 2011, 2:26 pm

          valerie – those supertasters you worry about might not even eat any icing of any kind. supertasters often don’t tolerate ubersweet or the “fattiness” texture, which would make icing right out for them ;). love using beets for pink frosting (not that i use pink frosting for any of our star wars or lego themed cakes)…

          spinach puree also makes a great green mac and cheese for st. patty’s day! http://tinyurl.com/ygtozp2

          • Claire January 26, 2011, 3:33 pm

            Actually, supertasters are defined by their sensitivy to bitter compounds in foods (such as spinach); sweetness and fattiness aren’t really part of the equation. Of course there are many individuals who are sensitized to very sweet or very rich foods and find them overwhelming, but they would not be described as supertasters by definition.Just wanted to straighten that out because I’m a stickler for technical accuracy.

            Also, green mac ‘n’ cheese sounds delightful!

            • jenna Food WIth Kid Appeal January 26, 2011, 11:19 pm

              claire – i read about supertasters and fat/sugar here under the “do you hate vegetables” header. i admit to not fact checking the statement, but it seemed like a credible source with sources cited…

              see what you think.


          • Michelle (What's Cooking with Kids) February 3, 2011, 12:33 am

            Woah, Jenna – that might explain why my daughter complains if I get 2% milk vs. the 1% that she is used to…or why she shies away from the gloppy sweet desserts that many kids rush towards!

    • Cherie January 30, 2011, 4:12 am

      What about spirulina or chlorella powder from the healthshop for green food colouring?

      • Andrea January 30, 2011, 10:38 pm

        What about Kiwi, Spearmint or something like that for green? Also I found this cool website to color things naturally. http://WWW.SPBIOGROUP.COM

    • Stephanie February 1, 2011, 8:36 pm

      I have a great green food coloring that is all natural…Matcha! It’s green tea powder, it turns everything green it touches! And it’s good for you too! $8.99 at Pittsford Wegmans in Rochester, NY

  • Quincy Quincette January 22, 2011, 11:22 pm

    This probably isn’t very helpful, but I remember dying eggs at Easter by boiling them along with the skins of red onion. They came out beautifully purple :-)

    • Christina January 23, 2011, 9:48 am

      Quincy, we made natural Easter egg dyes last year (wrote about that here), though we didn’t try the onion skins. But that’s definitely on the agenda this time around.

      • Melissa Graham January 23, 2011, 4:46 pm

        The absolutely best purple dye for eggs is red wine. Not only do they turn a beautiful shade, they get all sparkly. But you do have to use relatively fresh wine – friends once tried it at my suggestion with month old wine and it turned dishwater in color.

        • Christina January 23, 2011, 7:50 pm

          Melissa, good to know, thanks. We’ll try that this Easter.

        • Laura August 18, 2012, 12:32 am

          Where on earth do you get fresh wine – less than a month old?

  • Ness at Drovers Run January 22, 2011, 11:49 pm

    When you talk about food dyes – is it the same thing as “food colouring” like those gel colors that you get at baking supply shops? For example – are those Americolor Gel food coloring things that one would use on cake frosting super bad for you? Or are “food colorants” a different thing? I honestly want to know – since if they *are* super bad, I won’t use them anymore.

    • Christina January 23, 2011, 9:58 am

      Ness, unfortunately, yes, those food colorings include the same dyes I’m talking about. I’d never heard of that particular brand, but I Googled it to confirm, and Americolor indeed has synthetic ingredients. The rainbow graphic in my post shows the dye colors by name.

  • Bettina at The Lunch Tray January 23, 2011, 8:17 am


    Excellent post. I’ll send Lunch Tray folks this way to read it.


    • Christina January 23, 2011, 11:22 am

      Thanks, Bettina. Always appreciate your links!

  • Kristi January 23, 2011, 8:19 am

    I love, LOVE your nature girl cake. Both are cute, of course, but nature girl’s dress is so pretty.

    I do everything I can to avoid food dyes, but of course, the birthday parties and preschool snacks supplied by other parents make this hard. Like you, I have made my daughter’s birthday cakes using food coloring, but I wish there was an affordable altenative. I will have to check out those India tree dyes. Thanks for the link!

    More people need to know about the links between food dyes and long-term health and behavioral problems. I am dreading the increased exposure my kids will have once they hit the school system.

    • Christina January 23, 2011, 11:00 am

      Thanks, Kristi. I designed that cake totally on the fly, so I was pretty happy with the way it turned out.

      On school snacks: Kids don’t share snacks at my daughter’s school (each child brings his/her own), but I’ve become sufficiently intolerant of food dyes that, for class parties and the like, I have no qualms about telling fellow parents to skip the dyes. It helps that Tess has a classmate who’s highly sensitive to dyes, so we’re able to couch it in terms that some parents see as more acceptable (vs. just, hey, it’s that crazy food mom). But I know other parents who’ve claimed a sensitivity when it’s really just a preference. (Though, really, in truth all kids are sensitive to dyes on some level.)

      We’ve pretty well conquered school birthday crap, between a supportive teacher and our swap strategy. But birthdays are less frequent than snacks (one hopes!), so you could let that slide even if you decide to suggest some changes in your school’s snack policy.

      • Christina January 23, 2011, 11:22 am

        Oh, one other thing: The natural food dyes are expensive, but it’s not like I’m spending that every week. The best deal I found was a two-pack (two sets) for $34 through Amazon (which I split with my sister). And that set will last me well over a year, through at least two birthday cakes and holiday baking. Maybe even more. The dyes have expiration dates (natural stuff!), but they last longer if refrigerated.

  • Renee January 23, 2011, 11:50 am

    I’m just super impressed with your cake-decorating skills!

    I looked into the India dyes before Christmas, but didn’t actually buy them –it just seemed so expensive. But you’re right –when you think about how long they’ll actually last (since I don’t use food coloring often either), it really is worth it.

    • Christina January 23, 2011, 7:41 pm

      Ha, Renee, it’s actually not that hard if you have the right frosting tips (a turntable helps, too).

      • Melissa Graham January 23, 2011, 7:55 pm

        Christina, you’re far too modest. There’s much I excel at in the kitchen, cake decorating is not one of them. Your cake decorating skills rock.

  • jenna Food WIth Kid Appeal January 23, 2011, 1:14 pm

    love this article. will point kid appeal readers this way. junk food ads with nutritional claims make me ill.

    guess i better put those natural dyes i bought for xmas baking in the frig. never thought about them expiring in the pantry.

    • Christina January 23, 2011, 7:49 pm

      Jenna, the India Tree dyes have a “best by” sticker on the package, but then this site said they’ll last at least a year past that with refrigeration. I figure I’ll be able to tell when they’ve gone bad!

  • Deanna January 23, 2011, 7:08 pm

    Funny you mention pickles – I recently noticed that they contain dye and this floored me. WHY?? We are not totally dye free (I let parties, etc slide). But noticing the dye in pickles really made me think about how many “hidden” artificial colors are out there.

    I love the Valentine’s Day idea – my daughter will really get into that! We also decided not to bring a candy treat to pre-school…we’re going to melt down old crayons in little heart-shaped molds instead. I’m sure there will be more than enough food “treats” at school that day.

    • Milehimama January 26, 2011, 11:46 am

      Boar’s Head pickles don’t contain dyes (at least, not yet!) Kroger store brand, CERTAIN flavors, don’t (read the labels, though, it’s always changing.)

      • Christina January 26, 2011, 12:20 pm

        Also organic brands like Real Pickles and Woodstock Farms — they don’t have dyes, either. But yes: Always read the ingredients!

  • Pamela P January 23, 2011, 9:03 pm

    Great info. I am ordering the India Tree dyes pronto!

  • Kira January 23, 2011, 11:31 pm

    I was so pleased to see the India Tree dyes without all that artificial dye… and then I browsed some of their other products on the site you linked to. Why go through the trouble of producing an outstanding product like all natural dyes when most of the other products offered are chock full of crap?

    Just one example:
    Sprinkles: Sugar, corn starch, partially hydrogenated vegetable oil (cottonseed, soybean), soy lecithin, dextrin, confectioner’s glaze, FDC Yellow 5 Lake, Blue 1 Lake, natural and artificial flavor, carnauba wax.
    Nonpareils: Sugar, corn syrup, FDC Red 3, Blue 1 Lake, Blue 2 Lake, Yellow 5 Lake, titanium dioxide, natural and artificial flavor, carnauba wax.

    Yuck. I may buy the dyes because I want an alternative to the artificial stuff, but I am not a big fan of this company otherwise.

    • Christina January 24, 2011, 12:04 am

      Kira, yeah, I know. I don’t get it, either. And I know you can make sprinkles without all the crap, because I buy another brand locally. But I like the dyes, so I cut them some slack. Still, I think I’ll e-mail them and ask why they don’t make all the other items from natural ingredients, too. Stay tuned.

      • Kristi January 24, 2011, 8:05 am

        Could you share which brand you buy and where? I would rather not use the sprinkles I buy for Christmas cookie decorating each year.

        • Christina January 24, 2011, 11:52 am

          Kristi, it’s the Sprinkelz brand, which I buy in Wegmans’ Nature’s Marketplace section. But I think I’ve seen them at the food co-ops, too. They have pastels and chocolate, so nothing really “Christmas-y.” But we do gingerbread vs. sugar cookies at Christmas, so we decorate with just frosting anyway.

          You can also try making your own decorating sugars using the natural food dyes and plain sugar. My sister didn’t have luck trying that this year, but I’ve read examples of others who have, so I know it can be done!

    • Christina February 3, 2011, 9:13 pm

      Kira (and anyone else interested): I heard from India Tree’s president, and she explained that the company started out making non-natural products and has been transitioning in recent years to the natural items, which have really taken off (and yay for that). Going forward, India Tree plans to keep existing non-natural lines, but any new products will be made with natural ingredients.

  • Kim January 24, 2011, 3:51 am

    This Kool-Aid ad really shocked me and grossed me out at the same time. I wonder how many parents really fall for its message. It’s hard to believe an adult could be that naive but apparently, the makers of Kool-Aid knows enough parents are naive to make it worth the advertising dollars they spent on this ad. It’s at once scary, dispicable, and nauseating.

    • Lisa January 30, 2011, 12:16 pm

      um, yeah. and btw, once you drop that little tablet in, it’s not water anymore. it’s just artificially flavored drink product.

  • jenna Food WIth Kid Appeal January 24, 2011, 8:40 am

    christina – been meaning to ask you, how does your daughter handle frosting at birthday parties? does she scrape it off the cake, skip the cake entirely?

    • Christina January 24, 2011, 12:01 pm

      Jenna, Tess has eaten junked-up cake (and frosting) at birthday parties (see “wild child” comment above). But she often loses interest after a few bites, or at least doesn’t finish the whole thing, so we’ve been mostly mellow about it.

      Her (and other kids’) behavior at a fall birthday party, though, has me rethinking that strategy. With school treats, we use the swap strategy I’ve mentioned before, where basically, if she chooses to skip what’s offered, we go after school and get a more wholesome treat.

      I’ve never tried that with a birthday party, but after that nutso episode, I asked Tess what she’d think if we did. She was open to the idea, so I may suggest it before the next party and see. We’re also fortunate in that many of the parties we attend are thrown by like-minded parents, so the cake isn’t always a problem.

  • Karen Bannan from NaturalAsPossibleMom January 24, 2011, 10:03 am

    I blogged about the same thing on Friday! I saw firsthand how food coloring made a kid go bonkers! I am really excited about the FDA hearings. I’m hoping that we’ll actually get some movement here. At the very least we need warning labels like the folks over in Europe have!


  • Peggy Alter from Chocolate Craft Kits January 24, 2011, 10:38 am

    Here is another source for all natural plant based food dyes and baking decorations, including all natural modeling and writing chocolate. http://www.chocolatecraftkits.com

  • Bri January 24, 2011, 11:11 am

    Christina, this is so timely. Did you catch my post about the “blue raspberry” juice that has been served at my kids’ school? So much for the director’s assurances that the occasional juice they were serving was 100% and “all-natural.” I had the same thought you did — why does something have to have a completely unnatural color to be deemed “fun enough” for kids?
    And as a side note, my two have never had a problem with either white milk or clear water. Funny how, if you don’t give them anything else, they sort of expect things to look, well, normal. ;-)

  • Laura January 24, 2011, 11:14 am

    Love this post! But I do want to stand up for sports drinks, which are not just colored water. Yes, they contain HFCS and artificial colors and I wish they didn’t, but, as an athlete, I drink them on the sidelines (alongside water) because they are more effective at preventing/treating muscle cramping that happens due to dehydration than regular old water. I have no idea why (the electrolytes, I think?), but they do. They’re gross for sure, but they’re not just a marketing ploy.

    • Christina January 24, 2011, 12:16 pm

      Laura, unfortunately a lot of (most?) sports drinks aren’t consumed by adult athletes, but by sedentary adults and kids whose parents think they’re a healthier alternative to soda, which just ain’t so. So that’s definitely a marketing ploy.

      I get your point, though, that there’s something in those drinks that works. I haven’t researched more natural alternatives, but I have read about using honey instead of sports gels for distance running, so I’m guessing there might be sports drink alter egos, too?

    • Kathy January 24, 2011, 3:11 pm

      HI Laura, HFCS and artificial colors are not only undermining your athletic workout but also cause so much long term damage.

      A great electrolyte drink is coconut water, I kid you not. It has so many benefits among which are the electrolytes!!! Try it! Beats putting all of the garbage which is doing harm while you are trying to work out and be healthy!

      http://www.mercola.com gives some of the most succinct information on the harm caused by HCFS. Do study also the damages of artificial colors. In past decades the govt has removed dozens of colors while leaving some intact. Why were the others pulled from the market? Why were any left at all?

      Best of luck.

      • Christina January 24, 2011, 5:58 pm

        Too funny, Kathy. I was at the grocery store this afternoon thinking about this discussion, then remembered (and bought) coconut water. Yes, that’s the perfect natural “sports drink.”

  • Melissa Graham January 24, 2011, 12:04 pm

    While we ordinarily use brown eggs. I do make an exception for Easter since the colors work better. We also have Phil’s Cage Free eggs, which are raised locally, and are still white. My mom brought me a huge container of saffron from Morocco, way more than I could ever use before it loses its pungency. If you happen to be in a similar situation, it’s a great egg colorant. Spinach does not work with white eggs either.

    • Christina January 24, 2011, 12:25 pm

      Melissa, glad to hear that about spinach and white eggs. That’ll save me from another faulty experiment. The eggs we get from local farmers come in all colors (brown, white, pastels), since the shell color depends on the type of chicken. It just so happened that we had a brown batch last Easter. But this year I’ll be sure to search the market for white eggs. (Have fun with that batch o’ saffron.)

    • Renee January 24, 2011, 3:14 pm

      Melissa, have you visited the farm that produces Phil’s Cage Free eggs? I used to buy them (before we had friends selling their own eggs), but then I heard that they weren’t actually raised in a very humane way. The friend who told me this had actually visited the farm, but it was years ago, when she was in college and really active in anti-animal cruelty groups. She also said she didn’t know if things had changed, but I was just wondering if you’ve actually been out there?

  • Melissa Graham January 24, 2011, 12:38 pm

    Laura, but why do they have to make them blue? Also, while I can see the utility of sports drinks for serious athletes, I don’t see it for kids. My son is both a soccer and a baseball player. While I could possibly, possibly forgive the gatorade in the former circumstances, kids seriously don’t need the stuff for the latter. We prefer just to bring water and orange slices.

    • Kathy January 24, 2011, 3:14 pm

      Melissa, try coconut water. Rehydrates and replaces the minerals lost through sweating which is why sports drinks were created in the first place. Only coconut water is healthy on so many levels beyond what toxic sports drinks “offer”:-)

  • Lisa @ Real Food Digest January 24, 2011, 2:10 pm

    I’m still in the minority in my school, most kids get krispy kremes for their birthdays at parties and at in school celebrations. It prompted me to post my research of each ingredient in a Krispy Kreme doughnut, but many parents still feel that once in a while is okay – though that “once in a while” is at least a few times a month if not weekly.
    It’s unfortunate that keeping our kids away from these harmful ingredients have to be such a struggle.

  • Adrienne January 24, 2011, 7:22 pm

    I have purchased natural food dyes at Lori’s – the brand is Seelect. The yellow I have is made from extract of tumeric and the blue from vegetables and beet extract. The web site is http://www.seelecttea.com. I used them for birthday cakes and the kids loved the colors and felt they were more realistic looking than the old dyes!

    • Christina January 24, 2011, 7:56 pm

      Adrienne, so glad you had good luck with that brand. I talked to someone else who wasn’t happy with those dyes, but now I’m thinking it’s all relative. Like your kids, I think the natural dyes make more realistic colors (because, um, they are real). But a lot of people are so used to the fake stuff, and so many cake designs (cartoon characters, for instance) rely on bright colors.

  • Bevie January 24, 2011, 9:16 pm

    Kool-aid is evil stuff! I am caring for a little girl right now who came to me with a reputation for defiance, anger and bad behavior. I have a standing ban on Kool-evil in my house (and any other fake colored “food”), so that was a huge battle right away. After 2 days or so a sweet natured little girl emerged and was happily helping my daughter to wash dishes. It has been a month now and I have seen little indication of the “uncontrollable problem child” that I was assured would emerge. Only exception being when I let her get a school lunch one day as a “treat”. Not that anyone here needed me to tell them this stuff is bad news, but this one drove it home to me even more than knowing it was a problem for my own daughter. The Kool-aid fueled tantrums contributed in no small part to the problems that got this little girl taken away from her family (her mother also seems to react poorly to the stuff, so you can imagine the situation).

  • Melissa Graham January 24, 2011, 10:37 pm

    Renee, I have not visited Phil’s, but I seem to recall their getting a positive rating among egg producers – I, of course, can’t track down the source. Truth be told, I try to avoid any large scale commercial egg operations because even the “good” ones like Organic Valley debeak their chickens while small farmers that sell at farmers’ markets usually do not.

    • Christina January 24, 2011, 10:54 pm

      Melissa, a great source for egg and dairy ratings is the Cornucopia Institute. Here’s the latest egg scorecard. I didn’t see Phil’s listed, but perhaps it’s under a different corporate name?

      For anyone else who’s interested in the differences between locally farmed eggs and grocery-store eggs (including industrial organic), I have a big post publishing in the next week or two (I hope) that goes into more detail about that.

  • Katie @ Wellness Mama January 26, 2011, 12:56 pm

    Great ideas on the egg dying! Eggs are a staple at our house, and we dye them sometimes just for fun, even when its not Easter. I have never figured out green either, but when I was making a veggie smoothie the other day, I wondered if Spirulina would work. Definitely green enough and it stains hands if they are wet… anyone tried it?
    For birthdays and cakes, I’m on a mission to avoid the sugary treats completely on birthdays. Sure, I can make healthy versions with almond and coconut flour, but I worry about the trend of associating happy times and celebrations with sweet foods. I don’t want to build the subconscious association in my kids minds between happy memories and sweets. We’ve decided as a family for this year to forgo this entirely in favor of new experiences and fun times for birthdays and celebrations. For instance, my four year old has requested a camping trip for his fall birthday, and my daughter wants a pool party for hers. Easy enough to get healthy foods in, but not have them be a focus, and hopefully the kids will remember the adventures and fun times more anyway.

  • Catherine Tojaga January 27, 2011, 6:30 am

    So – it’s NOT the sugar? It’s the food dyes…. Interesting. I didn’t know that. Thank you Christina!

    • Christina January 27, 2011, 8:07 am

      Catherine, yes, food dyes, preservatives and other additives are the culprits when we see kids act crazy or inattentive after eating highly processed foods. But sugar isn’t good for us, either. Not only does it lack nutrients — it’s actually an anti-nutrient, meaning our bodies have to work so hard to process it that other nutrients are depleted. I’ll be going into that a bit more in an upcoming post (the same post I’ve mentioned a few times now, in reference to vegetable oils, milk and eggs).

      • KAS January 30, 2011, 9:38 am

        Can’t wait to see the post on sugar. My mother-in-law is a diabetic and my own mom is pre-diabetic. I realize a good portion of their problems come from age and lifelong bad dietary habits, but I do also know that my husband likely has high blood sugar problems, and that we need to more carefully monitor our boys’ sugar intakes. This is still something we’re working on doing, a small change we’re making in our lives. We can’t afford (and probably wouldn’t adhere to) any quick, big changes so we’re slowly acclimating ourselves to better choices and more homemade foods. :)
        I linked to your food dye article also, as I’ve nephews and a niece with sensitivities to red 40, so that hit home for me! :)

  • Becca January 27, 2011, 1:32 pm

    We’re slowly making changes to our food choices after reading your blog and others like it. I’d always considered us to be healthy eaters, but there is a much higher level of healthy that I want to get to! When I look at an ingredient list, is a food dye obvious? Is there always a color in the name or are there other terms I should be familiar with?

    • Christina January 27, 2011, 1:52 pm

      Becca, colors do have to be identified by name/number as shown in the rainbow graphic above. Those nine are the only colors approved by the FDA for use in food, but there are a bunch of others approved for use in drugs, cosmetics, etc. Here’s the full list.

      • Becca January 27, 2011, 2:37 pm

        Awesome, thanks so much! Slowly but surely, I’m learning.

  • Melissa Graham January 27, 2011, 10:31 pm

    File under you learn something new everyday. Not only do we have to worry about dyes in Kool-Aid and fake blueberries, but also our fruits. Check this link out and the ensuing discussion about citrus red no. 2 used to dye Florida oranges. I knew FL oranges could be greener in hue because of the warmer nights, but I didn’t know that they could counteract this naturally occurring phenomenon with dye.


    • Christina January 27, 2011, 11:02 pm

      Yes, Melissa, it’s absolutely nuts, isn’t it? And that’s all that particular dye is used for, too. So some genius concocted a dye for the sole purpose of making oranges more… orange. CSPI says it’s used in very small amounts and only for oranges not meant for processing, but who cares? Still ridiculous.

      BTW, great post about sports drinks! I’m glad our discussion here offered a little inspiration. Everyone can check out Melissa’s post over at her blog, Little Locavores: Sports drinks aren’t good for your kids (And they’re probably not that good for you either)

  • Scatteredmom January 28, 2011, 1:28 am

    When Kevin was 5, he attended a birthday party where he was served hot dogs, cheezies, and cream soda. I didn’t know at the time that he was sensitive to red food dye.

    OH MY.

    I honestly thought the child had food poisoning. I had never seen him so completely, utterly, sick. From that day on, none of us could stomach the thought of any of those foods. Later on, we realized that anything with red dye-popsicles, drinks, candies, made Kevin sick. So we just stopped eating them altogether.

    And I’ve never agreed that sugar makes kids hyper. I work in schools and usually, the kids are hyper about holidays and special days before they even touch the food. Mainly it’s the build up, change in schedules, lack of sleep, etc. They are always exhausted and cranky after the holidays.

  • Melodie January 30, 2011, 1:43 am

    You rock Christina. That’s about all I have to say. I love your nature girl birthday cake and obviously have to get those dyes you are talking about. I am way too lazy to make my own dyes for icing from blueberries and spinach and cherries, so this will be good. Many thanks.

  • TheFeministBreeder January 30, 2011, 2:39 am

    This is a really great post that really got me thinking. I’m trying to be more conscious of the crap we eat. I really am. It’s really hard, though, to reprogram my brain when I grew up eating crap out of boxes. I can barely cook, but I’m trying – for my family’s sake. It gets so overwhelming thinking about every little ingredient though. But I think you did a wonderful job here of giving me something to think about, while keeping it from being so overwhelming that I just clicked away. There’s a lot of good information here (and thank you for all the links to other good information) that have got my wheels spinning.

    • Heather January 30, 2011, 12:56 pm

      If you don’t have a crockpot already, start with one of those, just because there are sooo many easy, easy meals, made totally with good food that can be made with one. Learn herbs and spices a little, so you can ditch packaged seasonings (which often have MSG & other bad stuff). Example: Hubs makes YUMMY tacos. He used to buy the packaged taco seasoning for them…until I pointed out that we had all the stuff in the package (except the MSG!) at home, anyway–and he was already adding it all to the taco meat, along with the package seasoning. So we don’t buy the packages anymore. And the tacos are even better. Tackle one thing at a time. When you reach for a pre-packaged “food”, look at the ingredients, maybe look up a recipe for that food, too, to compare. Almost all the time, you’ll notice that the ingredients are nothing fancy, that the prepackaged thing is a bunch more expensive than the ingredients are, and that you _might_ save as much as 5 minutes in prep time by using the package. It’s an ongoing process. I started noticing this 20 years ago as a starving college student, and there are few prepackaged things in my cabinets now, with some of them being ones I do plan to switch to homemade versions of soon (refried beans being one). In many ways, shopping becomes easier, as more and more of your food becomes pantry items that you can buy in bulk–easier yet, if you have a co-op available to you like http://www.azurestandard.com

      • Valerie January 30, 2011, 2:55 pm

        Heather, you wrote, “Almost all the time, you’ll notice that the ingredients are nothing fancy, that the prepackaged thing is a bunch more expensive than the ingredients are, and that you _might_ save as much as 5 minutes in prep time by using the package.”

        I love you!!!

        I’m teaching an afternoon class at my kids’ school. Last time it met we made brownies from scratch. The classroom teacher who I’m working with said that most the kids had never seen brownies made from scratch before, only from a mix. I thought that was so sad. Mixes come with so many weird ingredients that I’d rather not have in my brownies, and I don’t think they could save more than 5 minutes at most.


      • Sarah March 30, 2011, 11:14 pm

        Speaking of tacos, this is my absolute favorite recipe for taco seasoning. I triple the recipe and save it in a pint jar. It’s great on any Mexican food. I add a teaspoon of cornstarch to thicken the juice a bit.


  • Carina January 30, 2011, 2:55 am

    Great post! I’ve never thought of the connection between food dyes and kid behavior, but it’s just one more reason for me not to like dyes. For some reason I’ve never been able to stand artificially colored foods, they gross me out. The colors are so unnatural and disgusting looking. Blue food? NO FOOD IS BLUE. If it doesn’t come that way in nature, gross. I made a red velvet cake for my friend’s wedding and I couldn’t even bring myself to taste it. An entire bottle of red food coloring. GROSS.

    Now I’m feeling all smug about disliking food dyes for years.

    As for my kids, I bake everything from scratch so there are no Yellow No. 5s or Blue Whatevers in anything I make. I haven’t had to dye a cake or frosting yet–the cupcakes can stand alone. There are lots of cupcake picks, like these, that you just stick into a cake–doing a great job of dressing up a cake without dying anything some nasty-ass color.

    One more thing, my husband is a super taster, and there’s no way he could eat frosting colored with spinach.

    • Christina January 30, 2011, 9:33 am

      Carina, in my inaugural Spoonfed post, I wrote about blue foods and posted a video of a famous George Carlin bit on the subject. Sounds like you should check that out!

      And I’m with you on colored foods. A friend pointed me to a “rainbow cake” recipe online this week, and just looking at the pictures made my stomach churn.

  • Jo January 30, 2011, 6:08 am

    With luck i happen upon your site today, a couple of days after a camping where my son made a friend…..all well and good, yes, but this friends’ parents gave him fruit loops for breakfast, and of course my son wanted them….because…well, they look awesome to a 4-year-old!

    He ate them, and rather predictably, he had a massive breakdown about an hour later, crying, starving…etc…I explained to him why he felt like that, and that it was because of the fruit loops….hmmm, there is definitely a reason kids turn into fruit loops following consumption of said ‘food’ item! He says he doesn’t want them again – they made him feel so utterly terrible!

    The one thing that really gets me with food colouring – red food colouring in SALMON! Seriously! Is salmon not red enough….is nothing sacred (No – i already know the answer to that!)..

    Great blog – happy to have found it!

  • Wendy @ ABCs and Garden Peas January 30, 2011, 8:53 am

    How is this the first time I’ve been to your blog? I love it! Good nutrition is first and foremost on my list of priorities for my child. I can’t wait until I have some time to sit and read through some of your other posts.

    We avoid dyes and weird additives whenever possible. My son is only 15 months old, so there hasn’t been a big issue with him wanting things yet, but I use natural colors whenever I can, and when I can’t, he will just have to see food in it’s natural state (gasp!) I can’t believe how often I have to defend myself on this issue to moms who think it’s no big deal. So frustrating. In fact, I’m headed to a bday party today at my SILs house, and she’s the queen of dollar store candy and purple soda. Should be fun…

    I should mention that I feel this way after spending 15 years as a professional cake decorator. Just imagine the amount of food dye I saw!!

  • kimberly January 30, 2011, 9:21 am

    thank you for sharing this sage advice!

  • Andrea G January 30, 2011, 9:45 am

    I just discovered your blog! Right up my alley! I reposted this particular article onto my FB page. Maybe you will get more followers ;)

    My son had his birthday party yesterday. I normally make my kids’ cakes, but with guitar lessons, an OT session, a speech session and a basketball game I needed a break. I went to our local health food store (locally owned, mom and pop shop) and got organic gluten-free, vegan cupcakes with blue frosting. The blue coloring was natural dyes :) All but one kid loved the cupcakes and the parets were grateful I didn’t load their kids with junk!

    On a side note, I have successfully made purple frosting for my daughter with blueberies. Just be careful not to use too many because they water down the frosting!

  • Kara Dudley January 30, 2011, 10:28 am

    Great post!! Thanks for addressing this! I used India Tree dye for my son’s dragon birthday cake this year, too. It turned out great! Of course, it had wings made out of fruit roll ups on wood skewers and other unnatural decorations, but those were promptly removed and thrown away after the candles were blown out. :) The year before, I colored my son’s robot cake by reducing organic blueberry juice and then mixing it with the icing I’d made. Worked wonderfully!

  • Angie January 30, 2011, 11:08 am

    Alton Brown has a recipe for avocado icing, which has a nice green color.

    As for dying Easter eggs with food coloring, I would think this would be okay because the part you eat doesn’t get dyed….

    • Christina January 30, 2011, 11:18 am

      Angie, avocado icing sounds great. I’ll check it out, thanks.

      The thing about using artificial dyes for Easter eggs is that often you get cracks in the shell, even hairlines, so the dye can get through. Plus it’s actually really fun using fruits and vegetables, not the least because you never know exactly what color you’ll get!

  • Arlyn January 30, 2011, 4:51 pm

    Love the blog post! I just copied you’re link from fooducate and like what I’ve read so far =) Thanks!

  • Kittymama January 31, 2011, 12:42 am

    This is great information. I will be thrilled when we take the next step and just let food be the colors it is to begin with! Demythologizing food — enjoying it for its own sake and not because it’s blue or green or purple or looks like toys — might be a very nice thing. I’ve never really had an appetite for things that are odd colors.

  • Lauren Slayton January 31, 2011, 6:32 am

    Great post (so glad I found your blog). People don’t know about this and really need to so change can be made. Love the resources in your comments section.

  • jenna @ Kid Appeal January 31, 2011, 7:10 am

    confession. i ate one green m&m yesterday. son was making his 100 days of school poster (gluing 100 items to a poster board). he wanted to use something “not healthy” so we didn’t waste good food. i recalled a bag of holiday m&ms he got for xmas that i hadn’t tossed yet, so he choose those. the bag of m&ms smelled so good. as a prior junk food junkie, i used to eat m&ms all the time. i couldn’t resist just one even though i’ve been dye free for about a year. couldn’t SLEEP last night! took me over an hour to fall asleep, and when i woke at 4:30 I couldn’t fall back to sleep. could be just a coincidence but, i suspect that one m&m. i learned my lesson. no more “just one” mentality. anyone know of a good natural candy coated chocolate, maybe i need a stash for weak moments.

    • Christina January 31, 2011, 8:01 am

      Jenna, try Sunspire SunDrops. We trade those for M&M’s at Halloween and have used them to decorate cupcakes, too. The website shows small bags, but I’ve bought bigger bags locally.

  • Debbie February 1, 2011, 7:31 am

    Thanks for the information on India tree coloring. Glad to see natural alternatives!

  • Garden Variety Mama February 1, 2011, 7:58 am

    I just found your blog, and it’s so exciting to find others who are passionate about teaching our kids about real food. I love love love what you have to say! And I will definitely look into the india tree dyes; we don’t use food coloring very often, but it would be great to go from ‘infrequently’ to ‘never’.

  • Julie Zizka February 1, 2011, 6:54 pm

    Great post, Christina. I, too, have a dye-sensative child. He’s 13 now and making his own nutritional decisions for the most part. But, when he was little, I unwittingly exposed him to more dyes than I care to think about. Back then, I barely knew what organic meant, so the horrors of dyes were far from my knowledge base. Some of the truly scary moments were not even food products, but ‘lifestyle’ products – bathtub color pellets, colored sunblock, etc. I dunked him in blue bathwater and drenched his skin in blue sunblock. Moments later he’d be a whirling dervish and completely unrecognizable. Thankfully, I quickly got up to speed on the ‘all-natural’ world and reduced his exposure to unwanted offenders.

    Thank you for spreading the word!

    • Christina February 3, 2011, 8:12 pm

      Julie, thanks for sharing that story about the bath pellets and sunblock. We buy natural toiletries as much as possible because I think there’s good evidence that our bodies absorb so many of these chemicals. (Plus I think they’re better for the environment. Same with cleaning products.) But I’d never heard of a reaction like that before. So sorry your son had to go through that, but so glad it’s now behind you.

  • Heather February 4, 2011, 10:35 pm

    okay I am very new to this…I am just now starting with natural, healthy eating for my family. I am feeling a bit overwhelmed. Does anyone have any recommendations as to where I can start or a step by step transition? How did you retain all this information? One of my daughters has extreme difficulties with sleeping so I am definitely going to be doing some experiments.

    • Christina February 5, 2011, 11:11 am

      Heather, you should check out the Feingold Association that I mention in the post. That group has a lot of great resources for parents trying to wean kids off food dyes, preservatives and other food additives, especially if you’re seeing behavioral (including sleep) effects.

      Also, here’s a recent piece from Robyn O’Brien, author of “The Unhealthy Truth,” about ways to transition gradually off food dyes: Fluorescent Mac and Cheese and Mutiny at the Kitchen Table. I’m not on board with all these recommendations. For instance, I wouldn’t cut the Kraft mac & cheese powder in half — I just wouldn’t buy Kraft mac & cheese at all, opting instead for something like Annie’s mac & cheese (or making it from scratch). And I’d mix fruit-sweetened jams into plain yogurt (instead of colored sprinkles). But the piece gives some good tips for folks who have a long way to go.

      You might also check out my recent post on reading ingredients, which offers a couple of resources to help cut through the confusion.

      As for retaining the info: I’ve been researching this stuff as a journalist and parent for years, so it’s sort of hard-wired at this point. But I think that’s actually what happens to everyone, eventually. Once you start learning about our food supply, the information builds on itself and it becomes second nature to absorb more. But I know it can seem overwhelming at first, which is one of the reasons I have a big post in progress that addresses how my family arrived where we are, foodwise. (I’ve mentioned this post-in-progress a few times now, but it’s coming soon. Really!) In the meantime, if there are particular things you have questions about, just let me know.

    • Sarah March 30, 2011, 11:27 pm

      *Hugs* It is hard, and it can be so overwhelming, especially when you feel like you have to change it all at once. I have chosen to take one step at a time, and am trying (hard) not to stress about the things I haven’t changed yet.

      Choose the one thing that is most important to you, and focus on it until it starts feeling natural. I chose to cut out food dyes because my eldest daughter is terribly reactive to them. I also chose to cut high fructose corn syrup. I read labels for *everything* we bought at the supermarket, focusing first on cutting those things out of our home food supply. I also reduced eating out to once a week, to minimize what we were being exposed to that I didn’t know about. Other changes grew very organically from those choices. Once I started cutting out ingredients at the supermarket, I had to start making my own versions of some things – I started canning jam, baking a lot of our bread, and making my own chicken broth and taco seasoning – or finding healthier commercial versions – I still cannot produce a decent homemade mayonaise, so I buy it in a jar! Once we weren’t eating out as much, I had to get organized with a meal plan so I could feed my family every night.

      As I felt like I was mastering each step, I would choose something new to focus on. Some of it was easy, like switching to raw milk and eggs from a local dairy. Some of it is really, really hard. I still struggle to keep us away from the drive-through. All-in-all, I am amazed at the changes I have made in my family’s life, one baby step at a time. Just pick something, and start doing it! It will probably be really hard at first, then it will get easier. Before you know it, you will be meeting that goal without having to think about it.

      Best of luck to you and your daughter.

      • Valerie March 31, 2011, 9:58 pm

        Sarah – Here’s the recipe for a healthier mayonnaise replacement that I really like a lot:

        (When I make it, I replace the mustard powder with a squirt of prepared mustard. And I use apple cider vinegar instead of the first 2 tablespoons of lemon juice.) Note that for a lot of recipes you need to increase the amount of this compared to the amount of mayo that the recipe calls for. I like to use it in potato salad, for example, but I use a lot more Beannaise than I’d ever put in of mayonnaise.

        Beannaise doesn’t taste the same as mayonnaise, but it is WAY healthier, and honestly I find I like its taste much more.

        For whatever that’s worth.

  • annieology February 21, 2011, 5:03 pm

    I’m a recent convert to the Blue is not a food movement. I get tired of hearing how bad real food is and how kids will only drink water if it’s in a special bottle, and milk if it has more sugar in it than a soda 2x the size. I also run on only whole raw fuel and the one race I succumbed to the Gatorade and colored sports drinks my time dropped 25 minutes. love it! Preach on!

    • Christina February 22, 2011, 10:38 pm

      Annieology (great name, BTW): The one and only time I drank Gatorade was on a stifling hot day during an eight-day bike trip. Instantly regretted it and never drank it again. We also offered it to our daughter (who was three and a half at the time, and riding in a bike trailer), solely out of desperation in trying to get her to drink as much as possible. But she wouldn’t touch it. Smart kid, that one.

  • Heather February 23, 2011, 7:21 am

    Thank you so much!

  • Christina March 21, 2011, 11:39 am

    For anyone following comments on this thread, I just posted a new piece about the upcoming FDA hearings on artificial colors and children’s behavior. That post, “Reclaiming of the green,” includes a link to a petition you can sign to let the FDA know how you feel about petrochemical colors in our food supply. Comments will be submitted March 23 (Wednesday), so click through soon if you want to sign!

  • Susan T November 18, 2011, 4:39 pm

    I have major issues. I cried when I saw the beautiful cake. Goodness. Keep it up. Don’t stop. Preach, sister.

    • Christina November 18, 2011, 11:03 pm

      Awww, Susan, so sweet. (In a wholesome, unrefined way, of course.)

  • Die, Food Dye! November 27, 2011, 3:28 pm

    We are trying to figure out how to navigate friends’ birthday parties coming up next year. Not all of our friends were aware of food coloring sensitivity, so I’m trying to spread the word through my blog about our experience. I will definitely try natural dyes this year in her cake, or get it from WF bakery with some of their yummy dye-free gelato. If you figure out a way to deal with friends’ cakes, do tell!

    • Christina November 27, 2011, 8:24 pm

      DFD: I’ve written a few times elsewhere that we do our best to avoid food dyes even at other kids’ parties. Fortunately most of our friends now avoid food dyes, too, so it’s not nearly as tricky as it used to be. But when we’re faced with a neon cake, I ask my daughter to scrape off the frosting or choose a piece that doesn’t have coloring. Of course that doesn’t eliminate all the other crap ingredients that typically share space with artificial colors, but it’s better than doing nothing. And over time my daughter has come to favor simpler, more wholesome sweets anyway. So often she doesn’t even want a piece or eats only a few bites. And since we otherwise avoid food dyes like the plague, I try not to stress about the few times a year she actually eats any.

  • Lauren March 8, 2012, 11:56 pm

    Can you please give me some tips on how you got the Blue and Green icing to look like that? I’m DESPERATE to get a hue like that for my daughters birthday cake this weekend….

    • Christina March 9, 2012, 12:56 am

      Lauren: Do you mean the blue and green icing on the mermaid cake? If so, that was my “before” cake (as in — the one with artificial colors). So it’s actually pretty easy to get those hues using the fake stuff. With the natural India Tree dyes I used for the second cake, the colors are more muted. But you can vary the shade by experimenting with a small amount of frosting and adding color a little at a time.

  • therobynnest March 24, 2012, 10:35 pm

    Hi Christina,
    I came here reading about the India Tree dyes but I think I’m going to have to stay for a long while and read your whole blog.

    I have sad news about the India Tree dyes– they changed their formula recently and amazon shoppers noticed:

    “I carefully read the ingredient list on the product page and for the most part, all of the colors were listed as containing deionized water, glycerin, and depending on the color, a type of vegetable color. Sounds safe enough. Imagine my horror today when I opened the package and read the ingredients on there. The yellow, in particular, has Polysorbate and PROPYLENE GLYCOL!!!!! This is an ingredients in antifreeze and paint and is derived from petroleum! ”

    I’m not sure if it’s JUST the yellow or if it’s all of them?


  • Katianne March 25, 2012, 8:23 am

    The India Tree dyes are now falsely advertising and use Polysorbate and propylene glycol.

  • Christina March 25, 2012, 10:59 am

    Robyn and Katianne: A few readers have mentioned this now, so I just e-mailed the president of India Tree to find out what’s going on. I have no loyalty to the brand and would switch if the dyes now contain such additives. But my batch does not, and the India Tree website doesn’t list those ingredients, either. So it’s a bit of a mystery. I’ll report back on what I learn. One important clarification: It’s my understanding that polysorbate can be derived from plant sources, and I’ve also read that some propylene glycol is now being made from the glycerin that results from biodiesel production. I haven’t researched either of these enough to make definitive statements, and I tend to avoid anything that I couldn’t use in my own kitchen anyway. But I think it’s important to understand that Amazon commenters may not have all the facts, either!

  • therobynnest March 25, 2012, 1:17 pm

    I ordered these all-natural Chefmaster last night to color Easter eggs with my toddler.


    It was outrageously expensive.

  • Lauren March 25, 2012, 1:48 pm

    the robyns nest —-

    I wish i knew ahead of time how horrible Chefmaster is:… the colors are basically all BROWN and are very hard to get out of thebottle.

    I have been meaning to call them to get a refund, really i am so angry about it. Let me know how yours turn out….

  • therobynnest March 25, 2012, 9:11 pm

    Nooo! I looked everywhere for reviews and didn’t find any. How were they all brown? I ordered every color (ROYGBP and pink) just so that I wouldn’t be left to my own devices and mess up making any. Maybe I should cancel and order the SeelectTea? But that’s even more expensive.

    • Lauren March 25, 2012, 9:22 pm

      I am not sure exactly how to describe….
      But for instance I was trying to dye my cupcakes green – and the dye was just turning the batter a brown color. So i was curious as to why this was happening, and i just took the dye and wiped it on a paper towel – just this very dark brown color with a minimal tiny shade of green. I am curious as to maybe it was a bad batch? but I don’t really know how much i believe that…

      I am going to buy the select tea after i return these. I think natural colors ARE worth the price…
      since i usually bake pale, i wouldn’t be using that much dye anyway…

  • Christina March 25, 2012, 9:33 pm

    Just heard back from Gretchen Geohrend, India Tree’s president, and she said the India Tree natural decorating colors do not contain polysorbate and propylene glycol. For a short time, the yellow colorant did contain these additives, while the company was trying to sort out some issues with that formula. And that’s apparently when those Amazon reviews were written. But none of the colors contain those additives now, nor will they in the future. Gretchen also noted: “It has taken us much time and research to solve the problems associated with natural colors. We are still working on some issues. It has been a labor of love. And it is still a work in progress. People who value ‘natural’ need to know this.” So that’s the scoop on that.

    On the matter of Easter eggs: It’s my understanding that liquid colorants (of any kind) don’t do a great job on eggshells. I’ll actually be posting an egg-dyes follow-up tomorrow or Tuesday, but in the meantime here’s a post I did on egg dyes last year: Eggs and chocolates and dyes, oh my. And here’s a Facebook photo album that followed that post: Easter eggs 2011.

  • therobynnest March 25, 2012, 9:45 pm

    Wow, thanks for that quick follow-up. Maybe I’ll order the India Tree as a backup to my Chefmaster palette of brown. I saw your post and pics earlier today, so pretty! I would go the food route like you but my egg coloring partner is only 2 1/2 years old and I was hoping for something that didn’t test his attention span, time-wise.

    Growing up my mom always used plain old food coloring with vinegar and the color took just fine. Not super great, but good enough. I’m worried that a gel will not mix as well. I’ll be sure to take pictures.

    • Christina March 25, 2012, 10:08 pm

      Robyn: If you look at the comments on that Facebook album, you’ll see that some of the colors called for a teaspoon of vinegar after boiling. So your idea may work yet! Also check out my next post for some other ideas.

  • therobynnest March 31, 2012, 1:35 pm

    My Chefmaster natural dyes arrived! I only tested them on paper towels but will do eggs very soon– pictures are here:


  • therobynnest April 1, 2012, 5:28 pm
  • Ruth March 13, 2013, 2:26 pm

    It upsets me so much that children, whose bodies need the very best to optimally grow and develop, are being fed in this way. As a very young child and up through his preteen years, my brother used to go ballistic after eating (primarily) red and blue food coloring. My sister and I weren’t as affected, but it was very evident in him. He’d be extremely giggly, hyper, and talkative after eating candies or foods with artificial dyes, and unable to focus or concentrate on anything. Once my parents realized this, they watched his diet very carefully and reduced/removed any sources of dye that they could. His mood normalized and improved tremendously!

  • Randy May 13, 2013, 10:18 pm

    Thank you so much for this post. I am the grandfather of 2 wonderful granddaughters. My eldest gdaughter is 11 and has an addiction to Doritos. I have been the lone voice of the dangers of the dye in Doritos,and other foods which I believe has always been the reason for her learning disability,or ADDHD. Personally, I don’t believe in the mass diagnosis of ADDHD. If we control (eliminate) the chemicals in our life as much as possible, we’ll all live a lot longer. Thanks again and will be checking back to your site for for further information.

  • Jes June 30, 2013, 8:30 am

    Can anyone recommend a brand of dye free and/or organic petal dust and luster dust?

    • Peggy Alter June 30, 2013, 1:20 pm

      I have gold and silver that are natural – if you order the 6 color natural powder pack you can create your own natural dusts by combining the powders with the gold or silver. Or you can use the powders with liquid or dry egg white as well for painting!

  • Peggy Alter June 30, 2013, 1:21 pm

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