petroleum, coal tar, and popsicles?

The sun is blazing, the pool is open, the kids are energized, and school is on its way out!  This could only mean one thing – SUMMER is on the horizon.  I for one, could not be happier!  I ♥ summer.  The smell, the late nights, the campfires, the smores, the sand, the swimming, the people, the parties, the food.  Need I go on?  Okay, one more thing…frozen treats.  Popsicles!  Popsicles!  Popsicles!  Freezy pops, italian ice, ice cream cones, and lots of yummy summer fun!

All these goodies are so colorful and pretty!  And refreshing.  And easy to market to kids.  I mean what kid doesn’t like the bright colors of the rainbow?  Or a box of crayons?  Or better yet, a rainbow-colored popsicle that looks like a crayon?  Popsicles are a summer staple and they are oh so good.

One question though:

Would these treats look less appetizing if instead of listing

Red 40, Yellow 5, or Yellow 6

(which sound harmless) on the food label,

it listed

Food dyes derived from petrochemicals?  yum. yum. yum.

Did that grab your attention?  Would you knowingly feed your child ingredients derived from coal-tar or petroleum?  Probably not.  Yet we do it every single day in this country.  I know if I were reading a food label and saw the words ‘petroleum,’ ‘petrochemicals,’ or ‘coal-tar,’ I would immediately put the product back on the shelf and I bet you would too.  The problem is we aren’t properly informed on what ingredients go into the foods we consume.  Get this, food dyes were originally synthesized from coal tar and now they are synthesized from petroleum.  Yes, chemical byproducts of petroleum are what make those red popsicles so red!  Uhhh, gross.  Food dyes have long been controversial because of their possible health risks.  No kidding?  Oh and they are in almost everything!  From frozen goodies to yogurt to chips to mustard to Jello to lemonade to Poptarts to salad dressings to candy.  You name it.

The problem…

Recent studies linking food coloring to hyperactivity and ADHD in kids is causing some experts to call on the FDA to ban foods containing them – or at least require a warning label.  The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) says the dyes are a “rainbow of risks” for children and can cause allergic reactions, hyperactivity, and even cancer.  I must point out that 1 in 17 children have allergies in the US, 1 in 10 have ADHD, and 1 in 5 are obese.  Despite those concerns, manufacturers put about 15 million pounds of eight synthetic dyes into our foods each year, according to the CSPI.

And now for the kicker….

Per capita consumption of dyes has risen five-fold since 1955, thanks in part to the proliferation of brightly colored cereals, fruit drinks, candies, and yes popsicles, all pitched to our children.

How do we avoid them?  How can we possibly go dye-free?

First read this: to educate yourself on food dyes.

Second, avoid synthetic dyes by choosing organic products. Organic standards prohibit the use of these dyes in products bearing the USDA Organic label.  Organic products use natural food colorings such as:

Red = Beet Juice or Paprika

Orange = Carrot Juice

Purple = Grape Juice

Green = Seaweed or Spinach

Yellow = Caramelized Sugar

Blue = Blueberry Juice

Third, read your food labels!  If you see colorings such as Blue, Red, Yellow listed on the label, don’t buy it.