Monday, September 29, 2008

So much effort to avoid food dye

Well, we survived a bouncy weekend. Alex and Lindsey both had all the typical characteristics of consuming food dye, but I'm not sure where it came from. It sounds like everyone has been making good efforts.

Lindsey's preschool teacher made a special effort and checked the ingredients of the biscuits and margarine used to make a special pizza in class. Alex's OT at the school specifically picked out a white jelly bean for him. I didn't have the heart to tell her that it probably had traces of color that really would effect him. Sometimes it's all just so much work.

Another school staff sent a note home saying that Alex earned a piece of candy but she didn't give him any due to the dye issue. I was a little frustrated as I specifically sent in a whole bag of organic dye free candy to that staff member 2 weeks ago. Apparently she never got it. It seems I've won half the battle about people understanding what my kids can or can't have. But somehow the logistics of it all still seems to get messed up. Sigh, it could be worse, much worse.

Friday, September 26, 2008

You should see what other parents go through

I was checking out the Center for Science in the Public Interest site on food dyes to send a link to a teacher and noticed they have updated a section with parent testimonies. I'm not sure whether to be grateful that other parents go through the same thing, or more alarmed at how widespread this problem really is. You can report your child's response to dyes or check out my earlier post on that topic

As for an update on my homefront, Alex has been all over the place since Tuesday's red#40 snack. He fidgets, gets frustrated, yells, hits the wall, stomps his feet, the list goes on. It's really awful to watch him like this. It's not the real Alex. I only see glimpses of his real self. He still has good moments, like when he played his cello for the neighbor. It should wear off tonight and my sweet one will be back this weekend.

Luckily, Ben has handled dye exposure OK so far. He has been pleasant and cooperative but a little more bouncy and distracted. It's almost like they switched places and Alex got the irritibility that Ben ususally shows and Ben got the wired up hyper stuff that Alex normally does. Go figure. That's what I get for trying to make predictions.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

new articles about effects of food dye

I received an email I wanted to pass along:

Dear Laurie,

Jane Hersey of the Feingold Association asked me to send you some links about articles on food dyes for your blog. Here is our article about the most recent actions regarding food dyes, which we have just posted: We would be thrilled if you would include a link to it on your blog! Discover Magazine ran this article about the Lancet study: and an excellent article ran in the UK's Daily Mail: Another good article is at I hope that these are helpful to you!

Best wishes,

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Sometimes I could just cry!

The director of my preschool/daycare called me today. The box of Little Debbie snacks that I provided as a safe alternative for colored birthday treats, the one I thought I had screened for all forbidden substances, actually contains red #40. UHHHHHG! Of course my boys both ate them yesterday. It figures, I really thought I was getting ahead on the food dye battle. Sometimes I just want to give in and let them eat whatever everyone else eats and who cares about the dye. But then I'm back to hyper, impulsive or argumentative kids whose personalities change and that's even worse, way worse.

If we follow trends of the past 2 years, Alex will be louder than usual (actually he was loud at breakfast and I reminded him 3 times use a quiet voice.) He's usually more distracted, and will probably throw things around more. I hope he can keep it together in school. Ben is usually fine the first day but around day 2-3 he usually blows up over homework or piano practice or both. I'm not going to tell them they've even had the dye and see if that helps.

This is exactly why I started this blog. It should not be so hard to keep your kids on a healthy diet. But the reality is, it is hard to read every stinking label of every darn food product that enters your home. It is so defeating to try and try for months only to get distracted in the grocery store with 3 kids along for the ride "helping" you shop. So I missed the crucial ingredient and actually encouraged people to feed it to my kids. I think it stings more to mess up and have someone else call to point it out, not that I'm not glad they did catch it, it just gets me feeling so defeated.

This is why I want food standards to change. It just shouldn't be so hard to keep track of food dyes. I wasn't even focusing on preservatives as much as I want to or I wouldn't have bought the Little Debbies. I wanted something with a shelf life of a few weeks to keep on hand for unexpected events so my kids wouldn't feel so left out. I guess what I should do is make my own cookies from scratch and send them in to the school/daycare to keep in the freezer and pull out whenever there's a birthday. Then I'm free of preservatives and colors. That's more like my mom and grandma would have done it anyway. I guess I can't get around the fact that good nuturtion takes a little work and planning.

ups and downs on dye

We seemed to have officially survived the last does of dye. Alex and Lindsey both went back and forth with impulsive behavior for the last few days. Alex was more silly and loud. Lindsey was more likely to yell or make spitting sounds. Now it's like the switch is flipped and they are back on the normal channel. They weren't awful all the time. We actually made it through a whole cello lesson without incident. Alex was a little distracted but Lindsey sat still and played quietly for the entire 40 minutes. Maybe it was the novelty of being in the cello teacher's garage. She was on her 9th day without power since the Hurricane Ike winds blasted through Ohio. Some things make me stop and be thankful for just a normal ordinary day.

Monday, September 22, 2008

What was I thinking?! 3 year old high on dye part 2

It started off so innocently. We went out to lunch to CiCi's. We all had salad and pizza. That should be safe, right? They used to have a nice salad bar with lots to choose from. Now all they had was a premixed Italian salad or a Bacon ranch one. We've learned to avoid any kind of bacon bits-always red#40. The Italian looked OK at first. Then I realized it was loaded up with banana peppers.

I've learned my lesson about banana peppers. Several months ago at the very same CiCi's Ben asked for banana peppers for his salad. He ate a whole plate of them. Needless to say it was the worst tantrum of his whole entire life and it went on for hours the next day. That was when I realized they soak banana peppers and pickles in yellow dye.

But back to this story, I picked out all the banana peppers and put them on my plate. Alex and Lindsey both ate the salad. Alex even had 2 plates full. It was like half of my brain said, "You know it's contaminated and soaked in dye so don't let them have it." but the other half was in denial and having fun "Oh, it'll be fine, you can't even see any yellow." The logical smart side commented to my husband, Ed "You know we'll probably pay for this." He said, Yea, I know, we'll wait and see." Ben was the smart one. He didn't eat any of it. I can't believe how stupid I was, I ate all the extra ones on my salad. I even thought to myself, "I hope I don't get grumpy."

Things seemed fine for the rest of Saturday. The kids were excited to have a sitter coming so I attributed the bounciness to that. Then Sunday morning hit. Alex and Lindsey kicking each other on the couch until I snapped off the TV. Alex running around not getting dressed for church, Lindsey being loud and demanding and fussy. That's the part that is hard to explain to people. This stuff sometimes takes 24 hours to kick in and then really goes into high gear 24-48 hours later.

After church, Lindsey didn't want to take her nap. She got up at least 4-5 times loosing TV and various items each time. At one point she came out of her room and threw her nightlight at me, then sobbed for 15 minutes that I took it from her. I got angrier and angrier and considered spanking her. I only consider that option when I've had dye. I took a moment of self reflection about how my parenting breaks down when the I have dye and that I need to find some calm strength somewhere. After a quick prayer for patience I decided not to spank and bribed her that I'd give the nightlight back after a good nap. It worked and she finally went to sleep.

I almost took a picture of the fussy crying mess that emerged 2 hours later, but decided she might hold it against me someday. Bedtime was not quite as crazy but Lindsey was pretty demanding and fussy. Alex was wild and had tossed a slipper on top of the plant shelf and wanted it down. I breathed a sigh of relief when all three were in bed. But wait, it's not done yet.

Around 3 am Lindsey was up. She came in my room and announced it was dark. She started screaming all the way back to her room. Put her back to bed and explained the dark is good for her and helps her her body sleep. 3:38 she's up again--needs to pee. 3:57 Alex is now up and announces it is too dark. Sent him back to bed. Alex was up 2 more times to pee and complain about the dark between 4 and 4:30. Ed realized the night light in their bathroom wasn't on and got up to fix it. I love my husband. Thank God Ben didn't wake up too. What a night. My kids are rarely up at night. They know I always take a whole day of TV away and they don't like that.

Now that I'm writing regularly about all this, it is so much easier to see the pattern. The last time Lindsey was up screaming at 2 am was the last time I knew for sure she had yellow dye. Here's what I posted that time

I don't think this is coincidence. People might say I look for excuses and blame it on the dye. Well, I was getting ready to write about the nice week we've had and how great all 3 kids were being all week. Good manners, good behavior, good compliance, peaceful home. Add a little tiny bit of yellow dye and it all breaks down for a few days.

Now that I'm "baring it all" for everyone to see, I'm trying to make sure I keep my parenting is consistent and positive so that is not contributing to any problems. I like Dr. Kevin Leman's book "Have a New Kid by Friday. " I've tried to keep his strategies in place even when behaviors are breaking down: More action than words. "B won't happen until A is complete." It really does help. But keeping them off dye helps the most.

I think I used to write many things off as, "Oh he's just 3, or boys will be boys, that type of stuff that we all say to get through the trials of parenting. Well, food dyes make it all worse. Maybe I'll follow up later with an email to CiCi's. Then again, maybe I'll just take a nap.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Whatever happened to real food?

A friend forwarded this article to me. Does anybody else think it is just ridiculous that everything has to be chemically altered? Check out the slide show at the bottom of the article.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

report adverse reactions to food dye

I was excited to hear from Jane Hersey, the national director of the Feingold Association this week. She has written 2 books on the topic of improving children's behaviors by removing preservatives and food dyes. Here is a link

Jane also reminded me that parents can report adverse reactions to food dyes at the Center for Science in the Public Interest. I filed a report for each of my 3 children before I started this blog. Please do the same so we can get the FDA to take action. The FDA continues to be in denial that this is a problem so the best way to change that is for parents to speak up.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

concerned enough to write to congress

I've never written to Congress in my whole entire life, until now. But since I've seen for myself the HUGE effects of food dyes on my children and lots of others' too, I've decided to make some noise. It's honestly that big a deal to me. I can't even begin to describe how significantly better my kids are off the stuff, and how every little thing breaks down into various levels of chaos when they consume dye.

You don't have to take my word for it. Try it yourself for a week. Remove all food coloring from your family's diet. Keep it out several days. Then serve them something nice and red. Watch for 3 whole days after that. Comment back on my blog when you see what happens. It took me several months to really believe what I saw and experienced. It was the same with my friends. So many people have seen the same crazy behavior with red and yellow dye, as well as the research published a year ago, that I just hope our food standards here will change someday soon like they already have in Britain.

It's easy to contact government officials through Center for Science in the Public Interest. I used their form contacts but wrote my own quick statement requesting foods with artificial coloring have warning labels.

The more parents that get involved, the sooner our foods standards will improve.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

new response from Kraft foods

I previously wrote to request that Kraft make foods free from red #40, yellow#5 and #6. Here is another response I received today:

Hi Laurie,
Thank you for visiting
Although Pillsbury is not one of our brands, I would like you to know that we have begun making a few products without any coloring. For instance, Invisible Kool-Aid. Also, keep in mind that any product to which a colorant is added to enhance visual appearance is considered "artificially olored" even if the colorant used is a natural ingredient.I appreciate you taking the time to e-mail us and let us know about this situation. We always like to acknowledge when our consumers provide us with information that can help us serve you better.
I'll make sure to forward your information onto the appropriate staff.Again, thanks for contacting us, and I hope you'll continue to enjoy our products.

Kim McMillerAssociate Director, Consumer Relations

dealing with dyes in school snacks

It's hard enough to avoid the food dyes at home and at restaurants. They are hidden in products you would never expect. It's an even more complicated mess to try to keep my kids from eating all the tempting colored treats at school. Ben has gotten tired of having the "melt downs" after eating red so he's pretty good at avoiding things, or asking about ingredients before eating things. At the "meet the teacher" night we explained that our son cannot have food dye and other parents seemed interested. I told the teacher that safe treats are white cakes without the sprinkles, glazed donuts, and chocolate or chocolate chip cookies.

Last week, one parent contacted me to check what Ben could have. She happens to be a former colleague so that may make her more willing to go the extra mile. She decided to make white cup cakes, but her daughter was really hoping for some chocolate sprinkles. I emailed back to leave a plain one for Ben, but also added that if she was shopping for sprinkles anyway, that the Mr. Sprinkles clown bottle is dye free. I heard back from that Mom today that while others were running around the store restocking milk and meat from the massive power outages, they were looking for the clown sprinkles and found them! How blessed we are when someone is willing to go out of their way to include my son so he can eat what the rest of the class eats. If you read this, Thanks Laura!

For the times when other treats are sent in, I have supplied the teacher with individually sealed cakes that don't have dye. Most "Little Debbie" snacks are fine, but it's best to read the label.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Do your kids get hyper on sodium benzoate?

I'm thinking there's something to the British study last fall on food dyes and the preservative, sodium benzoate. check it out here

I've started paying attention to how much sodium benzoate my kids have. It's a preservative found in pickles, soft drinks, etc. Today I learned there's lots of it in soy sauce. It's pretty high on the ingredient list. I'll have to re-think cooking some of my favorites.

I thought I had a nice healthy dinner: Chicken stir fry with broccoli, yellow peppers, carrots and onions served over rice. I used lots of soy sauce to flavor it. All three kids ate is up and enjoyed it quite well with compliments. Their afternoon snack was apples. They drank milk with dinner. There was no sugar or food coloring in anything. But as soon as dinner was done, all three went spastic. They were literally zooming around the house. I sent all three of them out to run laps around the cul-de-sac. That calmed things down considerably, but I have to wonder about those preservatives.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

taming the tantrums

I could never figure out how my oldest son could be so great some days and have so many tantrums and outbursts on other days. It was like he had two personalities. I tried to parent him consistently and deal with the behaviors the best I could, but it was still hard.

Then while I was taking his brother off food coloring I started to realize something. Ben was calmer and less moody. I realized his outbursts only occurred within a few days of having food coloring. I took him off food coloring, and now outbursts are rare or nonexistent. He is an excellent student, helpful brother, he cleans the bathroom and scoops doggie doo without complaining. He is so much more peaceful ever since I took him off food coloring.

It's been a whole year of peace now. I feel like I saved the best parts of Ben's personality and saved my sanity too. I wish other moms could see what a difference removing food dye makes. The research shows plenty of links to hyperactivity, but not so much to irritiability. Well, food dyes really make 2 of my children so irritable I don't want to be around them. It is such a huge difference I hope other moms will try it. Just take a week to read all the lables and keep them off reds and yellows. Then when the inevitable happens and they eat something dyed, watch for 3 days and see for yourself. It's not easy, but it's worth it.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Response from Kraft

I received a somewhat generic company statement from Kraft in response to my request for naturally colored products. Here is what I sent back:

Thank you for acknowledging my request. However, I would like to point out a few things to you. Your Pillsbury frosting sometimes list red #40 and yellow #5 and sometimes indicate "artificial coloring" on the ingredient list. I'd like clarification as to what kind of coloring that really is, otherwise, I won't be buying it. I will add it to the other Kraft products that I no longer buy due to food coloring.

I may seem like one insignificant consumer, but I've already affected the buying habits of at least 20 families, and they are now telling their friends and families about the risks of food dyes. We are amazed that every family who has tried eliminating artificial coloring has found it to be hugely beneficial. I suspect this effect is not well represented in research because of how difficult it is to truly eliminate all coloring from a child's diet, thus, only the very diligent parent is able to see the true difference. Despite that, recent research does show food coloring to be problematic.

I also understand that Lunchables are currently being sold in Britain without artificial food coloring due to that country's demand for naturally colored products. I would like to see the same type of products available here in the US as it sounds like you are already manufacturing them. I would like to assert that more and more consumers are finding artificial colors to be detrimental to their children. I found the following comment to be very insulting to the intelligence of the American people:
"Consumers expect food to look, smell and taste good and without added color many foods would appear unappetizing and would be rejected by many consumers without regard to nutritional value."

While I understand this to be sadly true about many consumers, I hope you will consider that there is considerable movement among parents to improve the quality of our children's diets. If you want us to continue shopping for better products at high priced health food stores, we will do so. However, you may be surprised that more and more people are changing their shopping habits and we hope Kraft will pay attention to our desire for better products without all the dyes.

Laurie Hoff

Sunday, September 7, 2008

It's hard to say, "No" all the time

I'm used to telling my kids, "No, you can't have that." on a daily basis. I do it without really thinking about it much anymore, but sometimes, it's just hard.

Today, when I dropped Lindsey off at Sunday school all the normal precautions were in place. The sign up sheet has her name listed in bold "no food coloring." I attached the extra alert clip to her clothing and let the staff know she should not eat the M&Ms or the red licorice. I said OK to sugar cookies and white frosting. It seemed simple and safe.

Then I picked Lindsey up after service and saw the bowl of frosting on the table. It was more yellow than white, a difference most people don't notice. A small difference makes a big difference sometimes. I'll watch and see what that little dose of yellow food coloring does over the next few days. She hasn't spit or hit since the last dose wore off.

It's ironic that I checked Pillsbury's website last week for frosting ingredients. I knew that even the white frosting lists artificial coloring (red #40 and yellow #5). I knew when I dropped her off I should have just said, "No frosting." But sometimes, it's just hard to say "No," so I didn't. Oh well.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Terrific Teacher

I am blessed with a terrific 1st grade teacher for Alex. She contacted me to let me know she was letting the kids have freezer pops on hot afternoons and was letting Alex have his natural candies instead. She asked if there were popsicles he could have. I dropped off his dye free popsicles and he got to have his cold snack with the class, without all the trouble of the dye. Yeah for Miss Thiel. I also let her know that Popsicle brand has naturally colored products.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Requesting natural products from Kroger

Since it was so easy to contact Kraft, I decided to starting contacting different companies and making the same requests for naturally colored products. Kroger was at the top of my list becauase I do most of my grocery shopping there and we get prescriptions there. After hearing my friend lament about her kids being on red antibiotics this week, I wanted to be proactive and make a request before my kids get sick.

You could contact Kroger too: