Scary Side of Halloween: Artificial Food Dyes

Halloween. The holiday that scares both kids and adults.

While the kids are busy planning their costumes and candy collecting route, parents are sweating about too much sugar and how to manage candy eating. I have written about ways to handle candy in the past, but today I am targeting the food dyes.

From cereal to yogurt, food dyes are infused in our food supply. In the candy category, it is off the charts. If you want to dig into food dyes, read this report from the Center for Science in the Public Interest.

The fear of fake food dyes and colorings is very real for parents, especially if you have young children or are managing attention or behavioral challenges. While not all kids are sensitive to artificial food colorings, children with behavioral challenges may experience negative changes after consumption.

It’s unlikely that you’ll be able to completely control what lands in your child’s Halloween bag (and that probably isn’t a good idea anyway), but you can take charge of the candy you choose to pass out to others.

To cut the candy food dyes this Halloween:

  • Shop at stores like Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s–they refuse to carry foods with artificial food colorings.
  • Order from online stores like the Natural Candy Store which offer US made dye-free candy options.
  • With any food, read the label. Note that terms such as “made with organic ingredients” doesn’t necessarily mean food dye-free; synthetic colors must be listed by name. Natural colors include annatto, carotenes, beet and paprika extract (capsanthin) and these are the desirable ingredients for coloring candy.
  • Go for passing out non-candy items such as whole grain pretzels, popcorn packs or tattoos.

For a quick list of food dye free candy, check out Rodale’s 11 Best Halloween Candies here.

Do you worry about food dyes in Halloween candy?


  1. Jen says

    Studies making the link between food dyes and hyperactivity were enough to convince the European Parliament in 2008 to impose a labeling requirement indicating when foods had been colored with food dyes. As of 2010, foods in the United Kingdom containing dyes must have a warning label informing consumers the food “may have an adverse effect on activity and attention in children.”

    We belong to the Feingold Association so know how to avoid these dyes in our every day life – including holidays like Halloween. It gives its members a food list of what to buy, etc.

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