The Danger of Dye

Why do you like some foods, and dislike others? Are you a “texture person” who can’t stand the feel of cottage cheese or yogurt in your mouth, or do you not care at all how a food feels? Do you want your food to be yellow if it is lemon flavored, and orange if it is supposed to taste like oranges? There are a lot of factors that influence food preferences in people, so companies who make food have to create products that not only taste great, but are appealing to all of the senses. Food coloring is a large part of that process.

Food coloring itself is not a new invention, ancient Romans used spices and foods like saffron, carrots, beets, and spinach to color their dishes.  However in 1856, the first synthetic food coloring was created as a by-product of coal processing. The very first foods approved by the USDA to have food coloring added in were cheese and butter. By the year 1900, hundreds of foods, cosmetic products, and and drugs contained synthetic food dyes.

Unfortunately, it was discovered that many of the dyes being used were carcinogenic and contained very dangerous toxins, they were quickly banned by the US government. This set in motion a series of laws passed regarding what types of food coloring could be used, and what couldn’t. Currently, there are several approved dyes for use in the United States. The chart below is copied from the FDA website and shows what are currently approved:

Color Additives Approved for Use in Human Food
Part 74, Subpart A: Color additives subject to batch certification(4)
21 CFR Section Straight Color EEC# Year(2)Approved Uses and Restrictions
§74.101 FD&C Blue No. 1 E133 1969 Foods generally.
1993 Added Mn spec.
§74.102 FD&C Blue No. 2 E132 1987 Foods generally.
§74.203 FD&C Green No. 3 —- 1982 Foods generally.
§74.250 Orange B(3) —- 1966 Casings or surfaces of frankfurters and sausages; NTE(7) 150 ppm (by wt).
§74.302 Citrus Red No. 2 —- 1963 Skins of oranges not intended or used for processing; NTE(7) 2.0 ppm (by wt).
§74.303 FD&C Red No. 3 E127 1969 Foods generally.
§74.340 FD&C Red No. 40(3) E129 1971 Foods generally.
§74.705 FD&C Yellow No. 5 E102 1969 Foods generally.
§74.706 FD&C Yellow No. 6 E110 1986 Foods generally.

There are many more that are approved for use in drugs and cosmetic products, to view all of the approved food additives and dyes, click here.

While the USDA and FDA have approved the above food additives, there are many researchers who are worried about the side effects of ingesting these chemicals. In fact, the European Union has started placing warnings on foods that contain dyes to warn the consumers of health risks! According to the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), “The three most widely used dyes, Red 40, Yellow 5, and Yellow 6, are contaminated with known carcinogens … Another dye, Red 3, has been acknowledged for years by the Food and Drug Administration to be a carcinogen, yet is still in the food supply.” Below is a summary of studies on food dyes directly from the CSPI report:

Blue 1 was not found to be toxic in key rat and mouse studies, but an unpublished study suggested the possibility that Blue 1 caused kidney tumors in mice, and a preliminary in vitro study raised questions about possible effects on nerve cells. Blue 1 may not cause cancer, but confirmatory studies should be conducted. The dye can cause hypersensitivity reactions.

Blue 2 cannot be considered safe given the statistically significant incidence of tumors, particularly brain gliomas, in male rats. It should not be used in foods. Citrus Red 2, which is permitted only for coloring the skins of oranges not used for processing, is toxic to rodents at modest levels and caused tumors of the urinary bladder and possibly other organs. The dye poses minimal human risk, because it is only used at minuscule levels and only on orange peels, but it still has no place in the food supply.

Green 3 caused significant increases in bladder and testes tumors in male rats. Though the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) considers it safe, this little-used dye must remain suspect until further testing is conducted.

Orange B is approved for use only in sausage casings, but has not been used for many years. Limited industry testing did not reveal any problems.
Red 3 was recognized in 1990 by the FDA as a thyroid carcinogen in animals and is banned in cosmetics and externally applied drugs. All uses of Red 3 lakes (combinations of dyes and salts that are insoluble and used in low-moisture foods) are also banned. However, the FDA still permits Red 3 in ingested drugs and foods, with about 200,000 pounds of the dye being used annually. The FDA needs to revoke that approval.

Red 40, the most-widely used dye, may accelerate the appearance of immune-system tumors in mice. The dye causes hypersensitivity (allergy-like) reactions in a small
number of consumers and might trigger hyperactivity in children. Considering the safety questions and its non-essentiality, Red 40 should be excluded from foods unless and until new tests clearly demonstrate its safety.

Yellow 5 was not carcinogenic in rats, but was not adequately tested in mice. It may be contaminated with several cancer-causing chemicals. In addition, Yellow 5 causes sometimes-severe hypersensitivity reactions in a small number of people and might trigger hyperactivity and other behavioral effects in children. Posing some risks, while serving no nutritional or safety purpose, Yellow 5 should not be allowed in foods.Yellow 6 caused adrenal tumors in animals, though that is disputed by industry and the FDA. It may be contaminated with cancer-causing chemicals and occasionally causes severe hypersensitivity reactions. Yellow 6 adds an unnecessary risk to the food supply.

Virtually all the studies tested individual dyes, whereas many foods and diets contain mixtures of dyes (and other ingredients) that might lead to additive or synergistic effects. In addition to considerations of organ damage, cancer, birth defects, and allergic reactions, mixtures of dyes (and Yellow 5 tested alone) cause hyperactivity and other behavioral problems in some children. Because of that concern, the British government advised companies to stop using most food dyes by the end of 2009.

The most worrisome thing of all? So many foods made specifically for children contain dyes! When buying food for your family, look for alternatives that don’t contain any unnecessary additives. Sure, they may not look as neon and bright, but they will without a doubt be healthier for you. Plus, there still ARE crazy and fun colored foods out there that are naturally colored, all you have to do is look for them. Natural food colorings often appear on ingredient labels as beets, turmeric root, annatto, saffron, paprika, elderberry juice, and caramel coloring (made from caramelized sugar).

If you are baking or cooking and want to color something without using spices or other food products, there are natural dyes you can purchase! Neither Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s carry products that use artificial dyes and depending on the location, they may even sell all-natural food colorings. Other all-natural food coloring options are:

By Courtney Perry


FAQ: What Is rBGH?

Q: Sometimes I see dairy products labeled “made with milk from cows not treated with rBGH.” What is rBGH, and should I only be buying products that do not contain it?

A: rBGH stands for Recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone and is a man-made hormone injected into dairy cows to increase their milk production by 10 to 15 percent. rBGH (sometimes also listed as rBST) has been legal in the U.S. since 1993, but several other countries including Canada, Japan, Australia, and New Zealand have completely outlawed the hormone, not willing to take the risk of ingesting milk from cows pumped full of chemicals and genetically engineered hormones. When the FDA approved rBGH use for dairy cows, there had only been one study done regarding its safety for human consumption. The study was done on 30 rats, and lasted only 90 days. The company who conducted the study was none other than Monsanto, the same group who has been heavily protested for years due to its GMO-filled products.


When deciding whether to buy rBGH-free dairy products or not, you should consider the possible side effects of drinking milk from cows treated with this hormone. Two of the biggest questions are:

1. Does consuming products of rBGH-treated cows increase the growth hormone IGF-1 in humans?

“Milk from rBGH-treated cows contains higher levels of IGF-1 (Insulin Growth Factor-1). While humans naturally have IGF-1, elevated levels in humans have been linked to colon and breast cancer. Although no direct connection has been made between elevated IGF-1 levels in milk and elevated IGF-1 levels or cancer in humans, some scientists have expressed concern over the possibility of this relationship.” source 

2. Cows treated with rBGH develop udder infections more often than those that aren’t treated with it, meaning they are put on antibiotics more often. When humans ingest milk of the cows injected with large amounts of both rBGH and antibiotics, are they potentially putting themselves in danger of antibiotic resistance?

“To treat mastitis outbreaks, the dairy industry relies on antibiotics.  Critics of rBGH point to the subsequent increase in antibiotic use (which contributes to the growing problem of antibiotic resistant bacteria) and inadequacies in the federal government’s testing program for antibiotic residues in milk.” source 

In addition to potentially being harmful to humans, I also worry about the animals’ safety when treated with rBGH. This fact sheet lists the side effects of using rBGH on cows, for me it is even more motivation to quit buying products containing milk from rBGH animals altogether.

Like always, I believe it is best to go with your most natural option when buying food. Because rBGH is required to be listed on the label if included in the product, it is not hard to avoid. Also, check out the chart below created by the Center for Food Safety to see a list of products made without the milk from rBGH-treated cows. 

Certified Organic Produced Without rbGH May be Produced with rbGH
Alta Dena Organics
Butterworks Farm
Harmony Hills Dairy
Horizon Organic
Morningland Dairy
Natural by Nature
Organic Valley Dairy
Radiance Dairy
Safeway Organic Brand
Seven Stars Farm
Straus Family Creamery
Stonyfield Organic
Wisconsin Organics
Alta Dena
Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream
Brown Cow Farm
Crowley Cheese of Vermont
Franklin County Cheese
Grafton Village Cheese
Great Hill Dairy
Lifetime Dairy
Stonyfield Farms
Yoplait yogurtsWest Coast
Alpenrose Dairy
Berkeley Farms
Clover Stornetta Farms
Joseph Farms Cheese
Sunshine Dairy Foods
Tillamook Cheese
Wilcox Family FarmsMidwest
Chippewa Valley Cheese
Erivan Dairy Yogurt
Promised Land Dairy
Westby Cooperative CreameryEast Coast
Blythedale Farm Cheese
Crescent Creamery
Derle Farms (milk with “no rbST” label only)
Erivan Dairy Yogurt
Farmland Dairies
Oakhurst Dairy
Wilcox Dairy (rbST-free dairy line only)
Colombo (General Mills)
Kemps (aside from “Select” brand)
Land O’ Lakes


Look for the "not from cows treated with rBGH or rBST " label!

Look for the “not from cows treated with rBGH or rBST ” label!

Carrageenan: Natural Doesn’t Always Mean Healthy

This day and age, it goes without saying that it’s a good idea to read an ingredients label before buying a product. Many times I have been shocked by the preservatives and unnecessary additives that are put into foods, especially when they are labeled in a way that makes them seem healthy and all natural. If an ingredient looks like a rocket ship launch code, complete with numbers and obscure letters that don’t actually form words, I put it back on the shelf immediately.

But what if the words you skip over because they look like real foods are actually harmful to your body? A common word that is brushed off, mostly because many people don’t even know what it is, is carrageenan.


Are you having flashbacks to the box of ice cream sitting in your freezer, or your tube of toothpaste in the bathroom? That’s right, carrageenan can be found in hundreds of different products. It comes from a natural source, so technically a product can still be called “all natural” if it contains carrageenan. The problem is that just because it’s “all natural” doesn’t mean it’s good for you.

 First, let’s look at all the different names for carrageenan: Algas, Algue Rouge Marine, Carrageen, Carrageenin, Carragenano, Carragenina, Carragheenan, Carraghénane, Carraghénine, Chondrus crispus, Chondrus Extract, Euchema species, Extrait de Mousse d’Irlande, Galgarine, Gigartina chamissoi, Gigartina mamillosa, Gigartina skottsbergii, Irish Moss Algae, Irish Moss Extract, Mousse d’Irlande, Red Marine Algae.

Just a few to remember, right?

Carrageenan comes from boiling a type of seaweed that is commonly found in the Atlantic Ocean. It is used to thicken, stabilize, and make foods or products gelatinous. It has zero nutritional value and is purely used to hold things together, which is why it’s often found in otherwise healthy products like yogurt and protein shakes. The main health concerns associated with carrageenan are gastrointestinal related. Those with gastrointestinal disorders like IBS are often cautioned by their physicians to avoid carrageenan whenever possible. According to Dr. Joanne Tobacman of University of Illinois School of Medicine, “Carrageenan predictably causes inflammation, which can lead to ulcerations and bleeding.” Dr. Tobacman even found in her research with lab animals that carrageenan can be linked to gastrointestinal cancer. 

The following is an excerpt from regarding their conclusion that carrageenan is NOT healthy and should be banned from foods:

“Results from the 2005 Marinalg Working Group’s tests clearly show that degraded carrageenan, a substance that is known to cause colon inflammation and is classified by the WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer as a “possible human carcinogen,” was present in all samples of food-grade carrageenan. Therefore, all carrageenan should be prohibited from foods, especially organic foods.” The full report is located here, and it is worth reading. It will make you wary of ever purchasing a product containing carrageenan again.

So where else can carrageenan be found?

  • chocolate
  • cottage cheese
  • yogurt
  • milk
  • cheese
  • ice cream
  • almond milk
  • soy milk
  • rice milk
  • deli meat
  • toothpaste
  • juice
  • chip dip
  • frozen pizza
  • protein shakes
  • salad dressing
  • infant formula

The list could keep going and going. Thankfully, the Cornucopia Institute has put together a fantastic list of organic foods to avoid due to carrageenan as an added ingredient. It can be found HERE. If you would like to save the list to your computer for future reference, click here to download the PDF:  Shopping Guide to Avoiding Organic Foods with Carrageenan.

If a product contains carrageenan, a company is legally obligated to put it on the ingredients label so thankfully that makes it not too difficult to avoid. From major organizations and groups to individual people, there are thousands protesting the use of carrageenan in foods, and you can help! Sign this petition to tell the FDA that you don’t agree with carrageenan in your food, and there ARE other alternatives. Every person and every voice (or electronic signature) counts!


By Courtney Perry

The Hidden Dangers of Borax

Borax has been considered a “natural” and “green” cleaning agent since the 1890’s when it was discovered in Tibet. Many people view it as a safe alternative to chemical-heavy products, and keep it as a household staple because of its versatility. It can be used as a dish detergent, stain remover, ant killer, rust remover, counter cleaner, and the list goes on and on. Like baking soda, its uses seem endless. The difference? Baking soda hasn’t been linked to hormone disruption.

The Environmental Working Group published an article in 2011 outlining their concerns with Borax. It is a skin and respiratory irritant, but worst of all, has been proven in animal studies to disrupt the body’s natural production of hormones.

“Borax and its cousin, boric acid, may disrupt hormones and harm the male reproductive system. Men working in boric acid-producing factories have a greater risk of decreased sperm count and libido. According to EPA’s safety review of these pesticides, chronic exposure to high doses of borax or boric acid causes testicular atrophy in male mice, rats and dogs.

Animal studies reviewed by the EPA indicate that while the female reproductive system is less sensitive to borax, exposure to it can also lead to reduced ovulation and fertility. Borax and boric acid can cross the placenta, affecting fetal skeletal development and birth weight in animal studies of high-dose exposures.”

To date, not many studies have been done regarding what amount of Borax is safe to use in the home. Because of this, the EWG recommends not using it at all. The 20 Mule Team Borax Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) did confirm that animals given borax by mouth showed a disruption in sperm and male fertility in general. They also stated, “Boric acid produces developmental effects, including reduced body weight, malformations and death, in the offspring of pregnant animals given boric acid by mouth.”

You may have noticed that the Environmental Working Group and the MSDS refer to both Borax and Boric Acid. They are not the same, but are close cousins. To clarify, here are the differences:

Borax: Other names are sodium borate, sodium tetraborate, or disodium tetraborate. According to the 20 Mule Team website  “Borax is the common name for sodium tetraborate: a naturally occurring substance produced by the repeated evaporation of seasonal lakes.”

Boric Acid: An acid crystalline compound derived from borax. Boric acid may be created by mixing borax with a mineral acid, such as hydrochloric acid. Read more about boric acid toxicity here.

If you currently use borax in your home, you may want to replace it with something less questionable and potentially harmful, and it will be easier than you think! Check out our post here on homemade and chemical-free cleaning products to get you started! 



By Courtney Perry

Thieves Oil

In the 15th Century, the Plague, also known as the Black Death, was responsible for killing millions of Europeans-  almost 60% of Europe’s entire population! While so many homes were unprotected due to ailing families, burglars took full advantage of the situation. Homes were robbed, the ill were pick pocketed, and the dead were stripped of all their valuables. The interesting thing, observed by law officials who finally caught a few of the robbers, was that the thieves did not contract the Plague themselves. They continuously touched the sick, rooted around in contaminated homes, and exposed themselves to the extremely contagious virus yet remained healthy.


Their secret? A blend of essential oils rubbed on their bodies. The oils used were clove bud, lemon, cinnamon bark, eucalyptus, rosemary, tea tree, and lavender. Legend has it that the thieves traded their secret blend of oils for a lighter sentence for their crimes. Their blend of oils is still used today and has been proven by Weber State University to kill 99.99% of airborne bacteria when diffused into a room. In 2006, the University of Manchester published research regarding the effectiveness of essential oils on MRSA, a major problem in hospitals around the world. The essential oils used in thieves oil destroyed MRSA 100%.

You can make your own “thieves oil” or you can purchase it online, and there are several different ways to use it!

  • Diffuser– You’ve probably seen oil diffusers for sale at Bath and Body Works or other stores. Instead of diffusing chemical-filled, toxic fragrances, put 20-30 drops of thieves oil in the diffuser and let the calming, healing oil fill the room


  • All Purpose Spray- Fill a spray bottle with 8 drops of thieves oil and add 8 oz. of water, shake well. This spray is safe to use on all hard surfaces, anywhere that is sticky, grimy, or needs disinfecting
  • Massage oil- Use thieves oil to rub onto sore body parts, or just use it as a relaxing massage oil. Make sure to dilute it in coconut oil or some other carrier before using on skin!
  • Sore Throat Remedy- Add 2 drops of thieves oil to a glass of water and gargle

Thieves Oil Recipe:

There are several different variations of thieves oil recipes, but here is one to get you started

  • 40 drops of Clove Essential Oil
  • 35 drops of Lemon Essential Oil
  • 20 drops of Cinnamon Essential Oil
  • 15 drops of Eucalyptus Essential Oil
  • 10 drops of Rosemary Essential Oil

Mix all oils in a glass bottle and shake well before each use!

Where to purchase thieves oil:

We recommend using Young Living Essential Oils. Click here to check out their site!

Essential Oils Warning

* Keep out of reach of children and pets at all times
* Do not use if you are pregnant or breast feeding
* Never leave oils burning with candles or diffusers without supervision
* Patch test oils on your skin before using on a widespread area. You also may want to consult with your physician before ingesting any essential oils
* Some people experience a rash or burning sensation when using Thieves Oil, probably due to the cinnamon oil. If you do, discontinue use immediately
*Make sure you are using oils that are made specifically for therapeutic use. Cheaper oils found in some stores are not safe for ingestion

By Courtney Perry

Ditch The Diet Soda (And All Things Aspartame)


 It has become a well known joke in today’s society- “I’ll have a large fry, Big Mac, ice cream sundae…and a diet coke.” Whether people drink diet sodas to cut down on calories and sugar or because they simply prefer the taste over regular sodas, they are not doing themselves any favors. Aspartame, the chemical that makes diet soda sweet and diet food not taste like cardboard, excited masses of people when it was created in 1965. Less carbs, sugar, and calories with the addition of a simple chemical? It seemed too good to be true! As it turns out, it was just that.

Over 85 percent of the complaints reported to the FDA regarding adverse reactions to food are related to the consumption of aspartame. 85 PERCENT! The FDA also has listed 95 different symptoms that people have experienced due to aspartame. To name a few, headaches, seizures, nausea, numbness, depression, rashes, tachycardia, breathing difficulty, loss of taste, slurred speech, anxiety attacks, and weight gain.

What’s even more disturbing than the symptoms listed above are the chronic illnesses that may be caused or made worse by long-term ingestion of aspartame. The FDA lists the following: Brain tumors, Epilepsy, Multiple Sclerosis, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Parkinson’s Disease, Alzheimer’s, Mental Retardation, Lymphoma, birth defects, Fibromyalgia, Diabetes and Arthirits. Are you ready to put down that Diet Coke yet?

I stopped consuming aspartame in all forms (NutraSweet, Equal) a few years ago when I noticed my chest, arms, and torso would break out in itchy, red bumps after consuming even tiny amounts. Four sips of a diet coke would have me covered in hives and quickly regretting my sugar-free drink choice. I started doing research into the side effects of aspartame and swore I’d never ingest it again. It has been harder than I thought it would be! Did you know that diet sodas and diet food aren’t the only products with aspartame as a common ingredient? Other products to watch out for are yogurt, chewing gum, chips, drink powder, cereals, gelatin desserts, coffee drinks, multivitamins, and breath mints.


If you are currently using diet sodas to aid in your weight loss, I suggest you read the extensive research about how diet drinks actually inhibit it. The USA Today posted an article recently that is worth reading. “One large study found that people who drank artificially sweetened soda were more likely to experience weight gain than those who drank non-diet soda. Others found those who drank diet soda had twice the risk of developing metabolic syndrome, often a precursor to cardiovascular disease, than those who abstained.”

Are you ready to take the pledge? Are you ready to quit aspartame for good? I did it 3 years ago and I could not be happier, or healthier. The key is all about finding replacement foods/drinks so you don’t feel deprived. Take baby steps if you are a current diet soda addict. Switch to regular soda, ya know, the one with 39 grams of pure, natural sugar and 140 calories per can. Next, switch to tea. Iced tea is a great way to still get your caffeine fix and cut out the chemicals and sugar. If you need to add sugar to your tea, use the raw, natural brown sugar. If it is the fizzy, satisfying feel of drinking sodas that you love, try naturally flavored seltzer water. Seltzer water has been my saving grace since quitting soda completely. Make sure you buy one with no sugar, no sodium, no carbs…the nutrition label should be 0’s all the way down.


Let us know if you plan on taking the no aspartame pledge! Track your health/moods if you decide to quit that way you can see your progress and be an inspiration to others who may still be aspartame addicts.

By Courtney Perry

FAQ: What Are Parabens?

Q: I’m always looking for paraben-free products but I have a confession. I don’t exactly know what parabens are. I know they are supposedly not good for you, but why is that? What are they?

A: Great question! Don’t feel bad, you’d be surprised at how many people avoid products containing parabens, SLS, phthalates, and phosphates without really knowing what they are or why they are potentially harmful.

Parabens are preservatives that actually go by several different names- you will probably never just see the word “paraben” written on an ingredient list. Two common parabens are propylparaben and parahydroxybenzoate, but there are several others. Parabens are used in most cosmetics and skin care products in order to keep them from going bad or spoiling. So in that sense, parabens are useful because they help our favorite products have a longer shelf life. But in recent years, there has been much controversy over the safety of these chemicals.


Similar to BPAs, Parabens have been known to mimic estrogen which leads some scientists to believe that they may be a contributing factor to breast cancer. One of the scientists who it very outspoken about the possible dangers of parabens is Philippa Darbre of the University of Reading in England. In 2004, Darbre and a team of researchers discovered parabens in 18 of the 20 samples of cancerous breast tissue in women. This is not evidence that parabens caused the breast cancer, but it was a warning bell- a sign that maybe parabens should be studied further before being used so freely by both companies and consumers.

“We’ve known for more than 25 years that estrogen exposure is linked to breast cancer development and progression; it is the reason tamoxifen [commonly prescribed to women with breast cancer] is used to disrupt estrogen receptors,” says Darbre. “So it is not such a leap to be concerned that repeated, cumulative, long-term exposure to chemicals that weakly mimic estrogen might be having an impact.”


Another alarming  study had several young, healthy, men put lotion containing parabens on their bodies. Just a few hours later, those same parabens were detected in their urine, meaning it took a matter of hours for the chemicals to completely absorb into their bodies.

So what are your options? How can you get quality, reliable, long lasting skin and body care products without exposing your body to an excessive amount of parabens? You’ll be happy to hear that paraben-free products are becoming more and more common. As companies research the downside to these preservatives, they are revamping their current products and making them more consumer friendly, and most importantly, safe. In fact, ULTA has an entire portion of their website dedicated to paraben-free makeup.

Say Yes!, Everyday Shea, Hugo Natural’s, Tarte, Coastal Classic Creations, Alba, Burt’s Bees, and Kiss My Face are just a few companies who don’t use parabens or other nasties, and have fabulous products you can find online and in stores.

Do you have any questions or need product recommendations? Send us a comment either on this post, or through our comment/question page!

By Courtney Perry