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


Breast Cancer Awareness Month: A Great Reason to Go Chemical Free!

October is National Breast Cancer Awareness month. Soon, men and women across the country will be showing their support and raising awareness by posting Facebook statuses, running marathons, getting tattooed, and wearing pink apparel. While some attempts at raising breast cancer awareness may seem silly and futile (posting the color of your bra on Facebook), if the end result is more women getting mammograms because suddenly there are reminders everywhere (even Great Aunt Sally is posting her bra color), then it was worth it.

While most emphasis for Breast Cancer Awareness month is placed on catching the cancer early by getting scanned, it is just as important to educate yourself about ways of preventing breast cancer. Of course, as with all cancers, there is no way to completely prevent developing breast cancer, but there are scientifically proven actions you can take to decrease your chances. According to the Mayo Clinic, ways to reduce the risk of breast cancer include not smoking, limiting alcohol, controlling your weight, exercising, breast-feeding, and avoiding environmental pollution as much as possible.

In today’s society, avoiding environmental pollution can be one of the most challenging efforts, as pollution seems to be present in almost every aspect of our lives. Pollution isn’t only what is emitted into our atmosphere by our vehicles or factory runoff that infiltrates our precious oceans, pollution can also refer to what we are putting in and on our bodies.  The overuse of chemicals in the thousands of products we use over the span of our lives have been linked to breast cancer, testicular cancer, as well as many other forms of cancer.

This October, instead of simply raising awareness about breast cancer and wearing your pink shirt to work every Friday, why not take a step and make a change in your life to reduce your risk of breast cancer, no matter how small it may be. One of the easiest ways to do this? Change your laundry detergent.

Did you know that most laundry detergents contain chemicals that have been labeled as “carcinogenic” by the Environmental Working Group (EWG)? TideAllGain, and even Arm & Hammer are guilty of pumping their soaps full of synthetic, lab-created chemicals that are harmful to the human body. Recently, Tide was in the spotlight due to the fact that they were using 1,4-Dioxane, a known carcinogen, in their detergent. By constantly wearing clothes that have been washed in harmful chemicals, you are putting yourself and your loved ones at risk.

Several years ago, a mom in St. Petersburg, Florida decided it was time for her family to switch to a chemical-free lifestyle, and laundry detergent was her top priority. Then began the birth of Monica Leonard’s now well-established and booming company, Molly’s Suds. Eye-catching packaging and fresh smelling laundry powder are not even the best parts about Molly’s Suds, it’s what is inside that really matters. The ingredients are as follows: sodium carbonate, sodium bicarbonate, magnesium sulfate, unrefined sea salt, and organic peppermint oil. Nothing dangerous, nothing unrecognizable and impossible to pronounce, and most importantly, nothing carcinogenic. The Environmental Working Group has given Molly’s Suds an “A” rating which is no small feat. The EWG is well known for its thorough research into thousands of products and strict standards.

With so much research backing the dangers of using chemical-filled laundry detergents, making the switch to Molly’s Suds could make a real difference in your life and overall well being. It’s almost Breast Cancer Awareness month, so get out your pink shirt, wash it in Molly’s Suds, and show your support to those who have fought or are currently fighting such a terrible and devastating disease.


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

Coconut Oil: Your New Best Friend

My favorite products to use are those that are versatile and inexpensive. When I recently learned about the hundreds of uses of coconut oil, I felt betrayed. How could this incredible, inexpensive, all natural product have existed for so long and NOBODY TOLD ME ABOUT IT!? So now it is my duty to spread the word about coconut oil, and tell you why you need to get in your car right now and go buy some.

Coconut oil is a healthy fat, it has antibacterial properties making it great for helping our bodies fight off viruses and bacteria that can cause illness. It has also been proven to successfully battle yeast, fungus and candida. Coconut oil naturally improves the body’s insulin use, which helps control blood sugar levels. And those are just the tip of the ice berg. Here is a list of the many benefits of coconut oil, followed by some suggestions for use!

  • Reduces hunger & appetite (hello new diet secret!). It has also been shown to reduct abdominal fat.
  • Studies in both humans and rats have shown that coconut oil improves LDL and HDL cholesterol, which may mean a reduced risk of heart disease.
  • Improves skin moisture.
  • Protects against hair damage.
  • In one 2006 study, consumption of medium chain triglycerides (coconut oil) lead to an immediate improvement in brain function in patients with milder forms of Alzheimer’s.

How should you use it? 

This past May, The Huffington Post ran an article about the benefits of coconut oil. Their recommendations are a great way to begin your love affair with coconut oil:

Give Your Hair Shine
Run a small bit through your wet hair – pea-size for short hair, bean-size for long – to get a beautiful conditioning effect with a shimmer. Also, are you like me and your puffy hair was GREAT for the 80’s, not so much the 2000’s? Putting a very small amount of the oil in your hands and rubbing through dry hair will cut down on the frizz.

Moisturize Your Skin
From dry feet to a flaky forehead, coconut oil is a great way to nourish your skin without the heaviness of moisturizing lotions. (really helps my eczema as well as a friend of mine with the burdening skin disease)

Remove Your Makeup
Ditch the chemicals! After a night out, it just takes one swipe of some coconut oil on a cloth to remove your makeup, even eye makeup!

Use it as a substitute for shortening, butter, or other types of oil, and get a sweeter, lighter tasting dessert.

Athletes Foot
Rub it on your feet to cure athletes foot, it works great on fungal infections anywhere!

Add To Sweet Beverages
It’s easy to bring a kick of coconut to hot chocolate or fruit smoothies. Remember if you’re adding coconut oil to a cold beverage, make sure to heat it up to liquid form before stirring in.

Leather Shoe Cleaner
Rub your boots with a dab of coconut oil to keep them clean and soften the leather.

Remove Stickers From Merchandise
Sticky labels and price tags are easy to remove with coconut oil. Just mix with some baking soda, spread it on the sticky area, leave for 10 minutes.

Season Cast-Iron Frying Pans
Cast iron needs maintenance to ensure foods don’t stick, and coconut oil makes a fantastic coating to keep your pan slick.

Canker Sore Remedy
Coconut oil has been said to speed up the healing process of pesky canker sores, if going SLS-free didn’t work for you.

Furniture Polish
Some coconut oil and lemon juice is all it takes to bring a beautiful shine to your wood furniture.

Combine coconut oil with baking soda to make your pearly whites gleam.

Lip Balm
While coconut oil makes lips shiny and moist on its own. Adding a tiny bit to your morning cup of coffee will soften your lips with each sip!

Cook popcorn on your stovetop with coconut oil and a few seasonings. It is healthier for you, and more fun anyway.

Diaper Rash Fix
Rub some coconut oil on your baby’s bottom to help keep the rash down, and the nice smell doesn’t hurt either 😉

Stretch Mark Reducer
Stop ordering expensive, chemical-filled lotions to help your stretch marks. Rub some coconut oil and watch what happens.

For Nursing Mothers
Nursing moms can take 3-4 tablespoons a day (and Vitamin D) to increase milk supply and nutrients

Sore Throat
Mix a teaspoon into a cup of warm water or tea, it will soothe your angry throat

I could literally go on and on, there are SO many uses for coconut oil. If you were to do a Google search on a problem you are having + coconut oil, there is a good chance you will get an article explaining how coconut oil can help you. It is very important to buy organic, virgin, unfiltered coconut oil. Not all coconut oils are created equal! I love the Trader Joe’s brand but you can find a good jar in many different stores. Here is one on Amazon that has nearly 1,500 5-star reviews. At $25 per bottle, I’d say it’s well worth it. Try it, you have nothing to lose and quite possibly a LOT to gain.

coconut oil

What else do YOU use coconut oil for? 

By Courtney Perry

Sodium Lauryl Sulfate: What You Need To Know About This Common Ingredient

You’ve seen the words “sodium lauryl sulfate” written on ingredients lists hundreds of times. Maybe you’ve wondered what it is, or maybe not. Any ingredient that appears in so many different products has to be safe, right? Much research suggests otherwise.


Crest Toothpaste Label

I never had any reason to question sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) before a few years ago when my dentist recommended switching to an SLS-free toothpaste in order to put an end to the canker sores I was continuously getting. I made the switch (Burt’s Bees SLS and Fluoride Free Toothpaste) and haven’t had a canker sore since. Actually, that’s not true. Last weekend I was on vacation and forgot to pack my SLS-free toothpaste. Within 3 days of using a “regular” toothpaste, I had a giant, painful canker sore. Not a coincidence! Now that I’m back home to my SLS-free toothpaste, my mouth is back to normal, and feeling good.

So what IS sodium lauryl sulfate?

Sodium lauryl sulfate is a detergent and emulsifier used in thousands of cosmetic and even cleaning products. If I challenged you to go to a convenience store right now and bring home a shampoo or toothpaste without SLS, I guarantee you would come back empty handed. It’s what makes shampoo lather and toothpaste bubble.

Sodium lauryl sulfate is actually derived from coconuts, but the process of manufacturing it is what makes it dangerous. SLS is contaminated with 1,4 dioxane, a carcinogenic by-product. In fact, several deaths have occurred when workers have been accidentally exposed to it. So while the argument has been made that SLS alone is not dangerous or carcinogenic, why take the risk?

Some of the other risks of ingesting or topically using SLS are irritation of the skin and eyes, developmental and reproductive toxicity, neurotoxicity, organ toxicity, hair loss, scalp irritation, and respiratory illness.

The great news is that more and more companies are starting to find ways to create quality, safe products without the use of sodium lauryl sulfate or any of its sister ingredients, like sodium laureth sulfate and ammonium lauryl sulphate.

Check out these products to see for yourself if going SLS-free improves your skin and health the way it has mine:


Toothpaste (SLS and fluoride free!)


Refer to our “DIY cleaning products” post!

Have questions about SLS or other product recommendations? Leave us a comment below!

By Courtney Perry

Homemade Bug Repellent

Have you ever read the ingredients list on the back of your bug spray? Here are some of the common ones and what you should know about each:

  • Deet- According to the Environment Protection Agency, “wash [Deet] off your skin when you return indoors, avoid breathing it in and not spray it directly on your face.” In studies conducted on lab rats, Deet caused brain cell death and behavioral changes after prolonged usage. In humans, Deet has been known to cause memory loss, headache, weakness, fatigue, muscle and joint pain, tremors and shortness of breath. Click here for a short article from MedMinute regarding the dangers of Deet.
  • Citronella oil- Direct application of citronella oil has been found to raise the heart rate of some people. Canada Health is starting to phase out using citronella oil in products because of uncertainties regarding its safety.
  • Neem Oil- Can be irritating to the skin and eyes. In cats, neem oil has caused sluggishness, excessive salivation, impaired movement, trembling, twitching, and convulsions. In one study, pregnant rats were exposed to neem oil and their pregnancies ended shortly after.
  • Ethanol-  associated with skin irritation or contact dermatitis
  • Fragrance- aka chemicals. Virtually unregulated by the FDA and could contain any number of harmful chemicals.
  • Aminomethyl Propanol- The EWG gives it a toxicity rating of 3. According to the EWG, research has shown it to be an irritant, an endocrine disruptor, and as having respiratory effects
  • Sodium Benzoate- has been linked to asthma attacks, hypertension, and ADHD.
  • Prallethrin- Can cause headache, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, excessive salivation, fatigue. Severe cases involve fluid in the lungs and muscle twitching. Seizures may occur and are more common with more toxic cyano-pyrethroids
  • Sodium Nitrite- large amounts can cause rapid heart rate and rapid breathing, as well as seizures, coma, and death. Excess contact with skin and eyes causes redness, itching and swelling. Read more:

The great news is that it is easy and inexpensive to make your own bug repellent, and you know exactly what you are putting on your body. Here is my favorite recipe:


  • Essential oils: choose from Citronella, Clove, Lemongrass, Rosemary, Tea Tree, Cajeput, Eucalyptus, Cedar, Catnip, Lavender, Mint
  • Natural Witch Hazel
  • Distilled or boiled Water
  • Vegetable glycerin (optional)


  1. Fill spray bottle (I used 8 ounce) halfway with distilled or boiled water
  2. Add witch hazel to fill almost to the top
  3. Add 1/2 tsp vegetable glycerin (optional)
  4. Add 30-50 drops of essential oils to desired scent

What does your family use for insect repellent? Do you have a recipe that is tried and true? 


By Courtney Perry

Does Organic REALLY Matter?

It happens every time you go to the grocery store and peruse the produce section. You stop in front of two bins of apples, one of them marked “organic”, and you wonder does it really matter?  The answer is yes and no. Anytime you eat non-organic fruits and vegetables, you are risking ingesting small amounts of pesticides that were used on the food during growth. While eating 100% organic is a great thing to do, it’s not always realistic for families on a budget. Organic food does tend to be a bit more expensive, so thankfully the Environmental Working Group (EWG) releases an annual statement about which fruits and veggies are the most important to eat organic, based on studies showing pesticide levels found in them per year. 

14 most contaminated foods according to EWG

  • Apples
  • Celery
  • Cherry Tomatoes
  • Cucumbers
  • Grapes
  • Hot Peppers
  • Nectarines (imported)
  • Peaches
  • Potatoes
  • Spinach
  • Strawberries
  • Sweet Bell Peppers
  • Kale/Collard Greens
  • Summer Squash

15 least contaminated foods according to EWG

  • Asparagus
  • Avocado
  • Sweet corn (only frozen- also remember you are risking GMO corn if you don’t buy organic)
  • Cabbage
  • Cantaloupe
  • Eggplant
  • Grapefruit
  • Kiwi
  • Mango
  • Mushrooms
  • Onions
  • Papaya
  • Pineapple
  • Sweet peas (frozen)
  • Sweet potatoes

So, what are the benefits of eating organic? Here are a few:

  • Organic foods, especially raw or non-processed, contain higher levels of beta carotene, vitamins C, D and E, health-promoting polyphenols, cancer-fighting antioxidants, flavonoids that help ward off heart disease, essential fatty acids, and essential minerals.
  • Levels of antioxidants in milk from organic cattle are between 50% and 80% higher than normal milk. Organic wheat, tomatoes, potatoes, cabbage, onions and lettuce have between 20% and 40% more nutrients than non-organic foods.
  • Organic food contains qualitatively higher levels of essential minerals (such as calcium, magnesium, iron and chromium), that are severely depleted in chemical foods grown on pesticide and nitrate fertilizer-abused soil.
  • Organic food isn’t genetically modified. Under organic standards, genetically modified (GM) crops and ingredients are prohibited.
  • Organic animals aren’t given drugs. Organic farming standards prohibit the use of antibiotics, growth hormones and genetically modified vaccines in farm animals. Source

Again, while it’s important to try and eat some of your veggies from the organic section, the EWG says eating non-organic fruits and vegetables is better than eating none at all! Also, remember that organic does not always mean more expensive. If you stay on top of sale items at your grocery store (or shop at the farmers market), you may end up not spending more than you would on non-organic items.



By Courtney Perry