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Is Blue Food Dye Safe for Kids' Health? A Look at FD&C Blue Dye 1 and FD&C Blue Dye 2

Food additives spark a lot of discussion. There is constant fear about the food industry using ingredients that may be harmful to our children. But what is the real story about blue dye?

First, it is important to point out that there are two different blue dyes used in food: FD&C Blue No. 1 and FD&C Blue No. 2. Outcomes associated with one of those blue dyes can't be generalized to the other blue dye. Although there is not an extensive amount of research done on either of these dyes, the results that are available are quite reassuring.

Blue swirl. FD&C blue dye 1, FD&C blue dye 2

The Research: FD&C Blue No. 1

A small study on FD&C blue due 1 observed an increase in kidney tumors in mice, but due to the study's design and the fact that there was not a dose-dependent response to the blue dye, the likelihood that the link actually exists is not strong. There are theoretical neurological concerns in infants under 6 months, but babies until at least 4-6 months should be eating only breastmilk or formula anyway, foods that don't contain food dyes.

The Research: FD&C Blue No. 2

The data linking FD&C blue dye 2 to cancer is somewhat more compelling than the data linking blue dye 1 to problems. Still, the amount of blue dye 2 a child would have to consume to approach a risk is much higher than people eat. The level at where no harmful affects were seen in studies is set very conservatively at 600 to around 9000mg/kg/day. In studies that examined actual intake, people at the highest levels of exposure to blue dye 2 were only consuming 0.34mg/kg/day.

What You Need to Know About Blue Dye and Kids' Health

As a dietitian who advises parents of children every day, FD&C blue dye 1 and FD&C blue dye 2 are not on my list of priorities. Although fears about food additives such as blue food dyes make for eye-catching headlines, that does not translate into actual level of risk or necessitate any concern.

Parents who are wishing to optimize their children's health should look to more basic and less exciting dietary changes. Offer whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. Work on increasing acceptance of new foods to and flavors. Teach you child food preparation skills. Don't purchase sugary beverages for your home. Cook more often and get takeout less often.

For the average child, prioritizing avoiding FD&C blue dye 1 and FD&C blue dye 2 is like renting scuba gear to find the dime you dropped in the ocean. For the child whose diet is already otherwise optimized for nutrition, and parents are looking for more ways to make improvements, it is like renting scuba gear to find the penny you dropped in the ocean--still not worth it. In either case, the potential benefit you might see from avoiding miniscule amounts of blue dye is not worth the stress and trouble.

Foods that contain FD&C blue dye 1 and FD&C blue dye 2 are processed foods that are often high in added sugar and low in vitamins, minerals, fiber, and protein. Any person who wants to optimize nutrition can choose to eat more fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes, nuts, and fish. Completely avoiding a particular food additive is usually not necessary. Focusing on what foods can be added in can be impactful at improving nutrition.

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