Friday, October 31, 2008

more about petrochemicals in food

I came across another article about the dangers of petrochemicals in food which I have linked here. It's a lot of the same information I've posted before, except for oranges. Did you know they sometimes dip oranges in dye to make them look more appealing? It's really sad that salmon and fresh fruit isn't even natural anymore.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

dye free frosting and cookies

Well, here is the finished product, ready for tomorrow's party at the preschool. This was the only can of frosting I could find without red#40 and yellow #5 or 6. I'm still hoping that if my kids have good alternatives, they won't feel as tempted to eat all the other stuff with dyes. It's just not worth the tantrums and hyperactivity.

Monday, October 27, 2008

ready for a dye free Halloween (continued)

I baked the sugar cookies shaped like pumpkins. They turned out pretty good, but the frosting, well you get the picture. It's not exactly orange by any stretch of the imagination. I used natural food coloring from the health food store. The yellow was a nice color, so I thought I was doing pretty well. Then I added the red. It didn't even show at first, then it came off as a brownish hue. The more I added, the closer it looked to Dijon mustard. Then just for kicks I added the blue too. It was brown too, but slightly purple since it's blueberry juice. You can sort of see it on the edge of the bowl.

Oh well, plan B is to use the white frosting and just make chocolate chip faces. We'll see how that goes. Maybe I should try to just make pumpkin cookies with real pumpkin. Those would be orange. Maybe I should accept reality that despite my best intentions, at least one of my kids will probably eat something dyed this week at school.

mystery food dyes

Ben came home Friday with a grumpy, defiant attitude that went on and off all weekend. He said that he ate a sugar cookie at school and the teacher and parent must have lied to him about there being food coloring in it. He was quite adamant about it. Unfortunately, I was pretty irritable too. I started tracing back the foods Ben and I both ate. The only thing I could come up with was the salad we had at McDonalds Thursday night. The southwest Salad isn't supposed to have any food coloring, but the Oriental salad grilled chicken glaze has red #40. Maybe it was something else completely. Who knows for sure. It just seemed to have all the same problems. Hopefully it's all worn off by now.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

What's in artificial food coloring?

I called the 800 number on the Beef taco Lunchable box today after noticing the cheese contained "artificial coloring". I know, it's "preservative city" in there so I shouldn't even buy that stuff. But since I don't let Ben buy most of the school lunches, sometimes I let him pack a Lunchable. We throw out the red candy that comes with it. I asked the representative for details about what the artificial color was. She left me on hold and came back after a few minutes to say she did not have that information. She asked why I was interested and I explained my kids react to the synthetic, petroleum based dyes like red #40. She assured me that by law the dyes with numbers (red # 40, yellow # 5 and 6, blue #1) must be disclosed on food labeling, so it wasn't that. However, she said since it was not any of those, she had no further information about it and no way that I could find out.

Hmmm. Sounds like yet another example of a company putting extra junk in the food, probably cheaper chemical stuff, that we don't need. I've bought those Lunchables for a while and never noticed that ingredient. I wonder if it's a new thing, or if it's always been in there. Once again, why does cheese need fake color added? Sigh.

getting ready for a dye free Halloween

I'm gearing up for the parties and trying to figure out how to let the kids have fun, without going "off the wagon". I'm sending alternate treats to school for the kids so they don't feel so left out from whatever orange colored pumpkin treat comes in. I have natural food coloring from the health food store that I need to experiment with. I'm hoping to make my own pumpkin shaped sugar cookies and dye my own orange frosting. Then I'll use mini chocolate chips to make the face. My gluten free/dairy free boy will get his GF cookies with the same frosting and organic chips.

Last year I let the kids go trick-or-treating as usual. Then I took all the candy and sorted out the stuff with dye (about 2/3 of it) and sent it to work with my husband. We kept what was left (lots of chocolate and clear stuff) and I still threw some away in December that they never got around to eating.

Lessons learned last year: Butterfinger has yellow dye. Most chocolate products don't have dye. Chocolate Tootsie Roll pops don't have dye, but the rest of the flavors do. Regular tootsie rolls are also dye free. Coconut and Cream Soda Dum Dums don't contain dyes but could have trace amounts from all the other flavors that do. Biggest lesson learned last year: don't save the red licorice and eat it all yourself while the kids are sleeping. I was sooooo grumpy the next morning that Ben actually said, "Mom, are you reacting to red dye?" and I had to admit that I was. What a proud parenting moment that was!

I'll probably get some chocolate candy, hopefully without artificial "vanillin" to swap for some of the colored stuff they get from trick or treat night. I'm also stocked up on Yummy Earth lollipops and Sweet Surf candy to use as trades for stuff they get from school, bus drivers, etc. The deal I have with my kids is that whenever they hang on to a piece of candy (such as given by bus driver) and turn it in to me, I give them 2 of my organic candies as a trade. I throw away the dyed candy. That gives them an incentive to delay the gratification a little more because they get extra. Sure, I spend a little more that way, but when the pay off is 3 kids with self control and stable moods it seems more than worth the extra 5 dollars spent on organics. I also keep candy in my purse so they don't feel like they miss out all the time.

We also have coupons for free Frostys from Wendy's to give out. I checked, the vanilla and chocolate are dye free. My friend had her kids bring back their dyed stuff to the house and she gave it back out to other kids. Feel free to comment if you have other ideas. My friends and I seem to do better when we put our heads together and swap ideas.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

writing to more companies

I wrote to Pillsbury this week:

I would like to request that you make products available without artificial food dyes such as red #40, yellow, #5 and yellow # 6. I was stunned to see red#40 listed on the ingredients of Crescent Rolls. My children react severely to any consumption of synthetic food dyes. I do not understand how products such as bread or white frosting require any color in the first place. Please note that consumer preferences are leaning toward more natural products.

This is the response I received:

Thank you for contacting Pillsbury about the use of artificial flavors and colors in our products. Most people would agree that food tastes better if its appearance is pleasing. Because processing or high temperature cooking tends to destroy natural colors, natural or artificial color is added. When natural flavorings are in short supply, artificial flavorings are used. They maintain a stable flavor level during processing and storage of the product. We are researching ways to reduce artificial coloring and still produce an attractive product. We appreciate the opportunity to share this information with you and hope you continue to choose our products.

food dyes and medicine

One red antibiotic, that's how it all started for me. You can read my original post here, but I thought it was worth mentioning again, because the topic keeps coming up.

My friends' kids were recently on red antibiotics and all the typical problems seemed to occur. One friend was preparing for her toddler to have his adenoids and tonsils out. She had dye free electrolyte drinks and had made numerous calls to the pharmacy to check out options for getting dye free antibiotics and pain relief medication. This is a difficult task to accomplish. I'm not sure how to put more pressure on drug makers or pharmacies, but it strikes me as concerning that I may not have a choice to give dye loaded drugs when my children are either injured or sick.

When Alex broke his arm at school back in May, the school offered purple Tylenol before I took him to the ER. I declined, hoping to get a dye free version at the hospital. I got stuck in traffic and spent longer getting there, Alex moaning in pain, poor guy. The hospital quickly offered me orange pain relief. I requested a dye free one and they said they would try. They forgot, so instead, Alex had to wait another 90 minutes for any pain relief. Then it was the original purple stuff anyway. Then he ended up with a prescription for more purple codeine at home. He was pretty "out of it" those next few days, so I'm not sure it mattered much. But it made me pretty frustrated that there doesn't seem to be much choice when it comes to medicine.

Benadryl, Tylenol, and Motrin, all have dye free products. I try to keep those on hand. I have yet to find a children's cold or cough medicine that is dye free, but I have not checked the health food store for that yet.

At least we dodged the bullet yesterday. I took the kids hiking at a quarry park. We were having a great time, enjoying nature until Ben fell and hit his head on a rock. He ended up with 5 stitches at Urgent Care. I was sooo relieved the doctor prescribed Augmentin because at least that's a white antibiotic. My family doctor also prescribed Augmentin for Alex last spring when he had a sinus infections, because I requested "dye free". I'm not sure there are many other choices of antibiotics, but at least if you make a request, there is one option.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

How can I get food dyes out of my diet?

I've been sharing my frustrations on this topic with my close friends for over 2 years. It shouldn't be so hard, but it is hard to eliminate dyes. Here are my suggestions on how to go about eliminating food dyes without loosing your mind.

  1. Pick a target color first and focus on that. I started with red #40 and focused just on avoiding that for several months.
  2. Then when you've gotten used to that, eliminate another color, like yellow #5 and yellow #6 .
  3. Once you've gotten red and yellow out, it's not that big a deal to get rid of the blue #1 stuff.
  4. Expect lots of mistakes, on your part, on your kids' parts, and from other adults.
  5. Get support from your spouse. show the research and reports from other parents. You cannot get anywhere if Daddy comes home with colored candy or cookies or just forgets what you are up to.
  6. Communicate your wishes with every adult in contact with your kids. Tell the teachers, informing them in writing or by email is best. Tell extra school helpers like speech and OT people. Explain to family members so grandma doesn't show up with red cookies or candy. Tell church helpers and freinds/neighbors too. Eiether provide your own snack or be clear about what your kids can have. I never take offense when my neighbor brings snacks for all the kids when her kids will be over with mine.
  7. Ask questions at restaurants. You have a right to know what is in the drinks, sauces, etc. Take a minute and ask wait staff to check for the food dyes or show you the ingredient list. Then you may be surprised to find out some foods are actually OK. My kids love sorbet at ice cream places and it is usually natural, but always ask first.
  8. Give yourself extra time at the grocery store and read those labels before you buy anything. It gets easier after a while. If you used to shop with the kids, find ways to shop alone for a while until you get used to reading the labels.
  9. Be strong in your efforts, you may find amazingly better behaved kids as your reward. Is there anything you wouldn't do for helping your kids be their best? Keeping the end in mind helps make up for all the hassles.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Yea for the Preschool teacher

I think I'm finally getting everyone in our life used to checking for food dyes. Lindsey's teacher wrote me a note that they did spider activities today and she ate the spider snack (rice noodles covered with chocolate). She actually checked to make sure there was no food dye in it so it was safe for Lindsey. It takes effort, but you can go dye free, even when others control your kids' food. You just have to really work hard with people, and hope they work with you back.

Monday, October 13, 2008

why does bread need red?

Red #40 that is. Why? I don't get it. It was a sad day when my friend told me that those nice brown loaves of bread you get at restaurants and steak houses have red #40 in them. Maybe they have to make up for bleaching the flour first so it makes perfect sense to add a little petroleum based dye to make up for what should be there but isn't.

But yesterday I made another startling discovery. I'm checking more closely for preservatives in foods and trying to eliminate those as much as possible. So I picked up a refrigerated tube of crescent rolls, thinking I would just see how much extra stuff is in there. It jumped right off the label at me: red #40 and yellow #5. What?!! When did they start putting that in there? I've checked those before and there wasn't any red 40 #. I know they were OK when I served them last Thanksgiving. Why do they suddenly need food coloring now? I wish there was a way to encourage these companies to make foods healthier instead of more toxic. Maybe I better start sending emails again.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

those little shining moments

It was a beautiful afternoon yesterday. The sun was shining and my children played happily outdoors. They came right when I called, they helped each other, they used polite words, they said "OK" to me or "You got it Mom." All three of them! Ben actually gave up his swing for his brother. They took turns on everything from throwing the ball for the dog to climbing rope on the playset. I got help preparing and cleaning up dinner. Ben scooped the dog doo doo without me saying anything. I didn't even know he had done it. Lindsey stayed at the dinner table for a whole meal without any negative behavior. She even ate seconds.

These are the beautiful moments that happen more easily when nobody has any food dyes. Life is just better when there's no petroleum in the diet.

Friday, October 10, 2008

More petroleum in my food

Just when I thought I had enough to obsess about with food dyes, I read in Jane Hersey's book, Healthier Food for Busy People, that artificial vanilla, usually called vanillin, is often made from petroleum and used paper pulp ingredients. So here's another one I'd like to weed out of the family diet. I wonder exactly what it was that made people decide that synthetic chemicals were better than real food. Well, money, I'm sure. But how can this be good for us our for our kids? Have they ever really studied what petroluem does to a developing brain? I've been scanning ingredients, cookies, chocolate chips, you name it, it's got vanillin. Sigh. Ignorance would be bliss at this state.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Food dye at church

We really like the children's ministry program at our church. They do a really great job teaching values in a fun and interesting way. Today they worked on determination, the theme for the month, by giving all the kids a Tootsie Roll pop. How many licks does it take? You know the deal. We instructed them not to give our children the candy and someone was kind enough to get them chips as a substitute.

Well my husband was volunteering in the third grade group and came out just shaking his head. He said within 20 minutes the kids were literally rolling around, throwing paper airplanes, slapping each other, climbing, drumming, etc. It is normally such a nice, structured, great place for the kids. None of them are normally like that. But juice those kids on food dye and sugar right at the start and all "you know what" breaks loose. Ed said it was a real eye-opener for some of the other adults volunteering.

I'm just sad that our school district is doing reading proficiency tests for most of those same third graders tomorrow. Most people don't realize that a dose of food dye can carry through with behavioral effects for 3 whole days. That's probably why it all bothers me so much. If it was only a few hours, I could take that now and then, but three days of problems, that's too many good times thrown away to be worth one lollipop.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

My favorite dye free foods

I've talked to lots of people who find it so much effort to avoid the food dyes, they just give up. We've found lots of great substitutes.

Drinks: we only do 100% juice or Capri Sun. We often do water at restaurants as lemonade and punch are always loaded. Kroger recently started carrying organic lemonade.

Macaroni and cheese: Kraft has a white cheddar and so does Kroger. We get the Kroger one and the sauce needs a little more mixing than the regular stuff, but my kids like it better than the yellow stuff.

Breakfast foods: we make our own pancakes and freeze extras for quick meals on school days. Tip: Most eggo brands have yellow dye. Most Kroger brand waffles are dye free.

Yogurt: Yoplait is usually dye free. We skip all the Gogurts, Yogos, etc (more sugar and dyes added than good stuff)

Popcorn: Orville Redenbocker and Kroger have natural brands that skip the yellow. It took me months and months to figure out microwave popcorn was a culprit for hidden dye.

Fruit snacks: Motts/Brachs has a dye free fruit chew (my kids still seems to bounce more after eating them, probably due to all the corn syrup). We really like FruitABu brand fruit snacks (health food section of Kroger) They have lots of organic fruit leather individually wrapped type snacks.

Chips and snacks: We skip Doritos and cheesey anything like popcorn or Cheetos. Plain chips and pretzels are usually safe. Kroger brand has a barbecue chip that is free of dyes, so are a few others if you like the flavor but not the petroleum.

Breakfast Cereal: We do Rice Crispies, Cheerios, Crispex, Chex. We splurge sometimes on Organic Wild Puffs (again in the Kroger health food section) Its actually fruity and colorful but from natural ingredients.

Candy: My kids love Yummy Earth candies and lollipops. They taste great, but I've only found them at the health food store. I keep them in my purse so any time someone offers us regular candy like DumDums, I decline and hand the kids my organic stuff. I also gave a bag to each teacher so my kids have safe candy at school.

Basically, we check out the natural food section at Kroger before shopping in the regular part of the store. I'm partial to that store as my husband works in the corporate office (designs their web stuff) and we get nice discounts. I also have a color coded list of what to avoid and what to pick instead. It's in a table so I couldn't find an easy way to post it here. Email me at and I'll forward it to anyone interested.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Here we go again...

I might as well just copy my old posts because it's the same old story every week. No matter how many times I put it in writing or call, someone forgets and gives my kids food they are not supposed to have.

I picked Lindsey up from Preschool and she was literally spinning in circles and shrieking. That 's not how my daughter usually is. Her routine for the past year is to run up to me and hug me sweetly. Even the teacher commented that she didn't know why she was so wound up. Hmmm, I know what that looks like. My immediate thought was that she had some sort of food dye. There was not supposed to be anything on the menu that day. But her regular teacher was out so who knows. They probably forgot to substitute my cheese crackers for the off brand dye-added brand they serve.

Alex had "puppy chow" for his after school snack. He is only supposed to eat foods I provide. He had 2 healthy snacks in his bag. Instead they gave my lactose intolerant/gluten free child something that probably has both milk and wheat. At least they've insisted before that there is no artificial dye in that snack. The poor little guy was so sick to his stomach he barely ate a few rice crackers for dinner and was in bed an hour early at his own request. How sad is that?

Ben had chocolate cupcakes at school this week, so 50/50 chance he had red dye. What happened to the alternate treat I sent in? Who knows, but it absolutely was not offered to him. At least he was on the ball and scraped off the sprinkles.

If I had met a parent who talked about this stuff a few years ago I would have written her off as a total nutcase. I just don't know how to make people understand how important the link is between children's food and their behavior. Not to mention the links to cancerous tumors and other health problems. I've sent emails to both Oprah and Dr. Phil. Maybe they'll get interested and do a story some day.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Do you eat crude oil?

The answer is YES any time you eat something with synthetic dyes (red #40, yellow #5, yellow #6, blue #1). They are all made from petroleum, YES that's the same stuff they use in gasoline!
Does anyone else think that's just gross? The current food industry norm is to add a little petroleum to just about every food targeted to kids. No wonder we need so much Ritalin! The same card states that Red 40 is banned in Canada due to concerns about it causing cancerous tumors in test animals. So research shows it makes kids hyper and irritable. Other countries ban it, and here in the US we crank it into more and more foods at higher and higher doses. Am I the only one that thinks that is just plain wrong?

I received this information in a packet sent by Jane Hersey at the Feingold Association yesterday. She was kind enough to send me copies of her books, newsletters and other handouts from Feingold. Thanks Jane! It's really worth reading.

Previous post about Jane Hersey on my blog