Are Food Dyes and Coloring Bad for Pregnancy? Safety Info

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Written by Amy Kaczor RDN

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Food dyes, whether they are created through natural or artificial means, are present in so many of the foods we commonly eat, such as packaged desserts, beverages, and cereals. However, are the common food dyes and colorings dangerous for your pregnancy? 

Overall, food dyes are safe to consume during pregnancy in small amounts since they are certified by the FDA. However, while uncommon, some food dyes may cause allergic reactions. Additionally, it is best to avoid Red 3 as studies are conflicting on its safety. 

With so many food dyes including red, blue, green, and yellow, you may be wondering which food colorants are safe to consume during pregnancy. So, let’s dive into the common culprits and their safety implications during your pregnancy.

Is Food Dye or Coloring Safe During Pregnancy? 

Food dyes, also known as food colorings, are regulated and monitored heavily by the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) in the United States (source: FDA). More specifically, the FDA pays attention to the types of foods the coloring is used in, the amount used, and how it is described on the product packaging.

glasses of various food coloring for making decorations on dishes or pastry

The FDA requires that all food coloring and dyes are listed on the nutrition facts label in the ingredient list. 

All of the dyes for food mentioned in this article have been classified as safe by the FDA. 

For man-made colorings, each batch of dye needs to be individually certified by the FDA in order to be used in a product. Certification means a coloring has met all the composition and purity requirements (source: FDA).

A certified coloring will be listed in the ingredients list with an “FD&C” or “D&C” designation. For example, the ingredients list will include “FD&C Red 40”. 

If the ingredient does not have the certification, that does not mean it is not safe. It means the dyes are naturally occurring from minerals, plants, or animals. There is no clear distinction between the safety or quality of artificial versus naturally occurring food dyes. 

Unfortunately, very little research exists on the safety of food dyes during pregnancy, so limiting your consumption of them may be best.

Additionally, most food products containing dyes are processed foods, such as ice creams, baked sweets, and gelatins (source: FDA). The dyes are added to simply make the food more appealing and, therefore, do not improve nutrition.

It is always a safe bet to consume more whole foods and limit processed foods for an overall healthier diet.

man drinking juice with red food coloring in the beach

Is Red Food Dye Safe When Pregnant? 

Red food dyes are often artificial or man-made food colorants, the most common types being Red 40 and Red 3.

Red 40 is commonly found in cereals, beverages, sweets, and dairy (source: FDA). 

Many food dye allergies include Red 40, so it is essential to monitor for any adverse health effects of consuming Red 40, as well as Yellow 5, Yellow 6, and Blue 1 (source: International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health [IJOMEH]). 

Red 3 has been associated with cancer in animals (source: IJOMEH). However, previous studies are not recent and have yielded conflicting results. While unlikely to cause harm, it is safest to avoid consuming Red 3 during pregnancy.

Green Food Dye When Pregnant

Moving on to green food dyes, the most common is Green 3. Green 3 is commonly found in drink mixers, sherbet, ice cream, cereal, and baked goods (source: FDA). 

While the body of literature lacks studies on the safety of green food dye, there is no research to suggest that green found dyes are unsafe during pregnancy. 

Out of an abundance of caution, limit your consumption of processed foods containing Green 3 while pregnant. 

yellow dyed gelatin on a plate

Yellow Food Dye During Pregnancy

Yellow 6 is commonly found in gelatins, crackers, dessert powders, sauces, and more (source: FDA). Yellow 6 (along with Yellow 5) are dyes more likely (while still very uncommon) to cause allergic reactions when consumed (source: IJOMEH). 

If you do not experience any adverse effects of Yellow 6 or Yellow 5, it is likely safe to consume small amounts during pregnancy. 

Tartrazine is another commonly used yellow food dye. A 2018 study demonstrated the safety of tartrazine. However, some DNA damage was induced at high dye doses (source: Toxicology Research). 

Therefore, limit tartrazine consumption during pregnancy to avoid reaching high dosages. 

Blue Food Colorings in Pregnancy

The most common blue food dyes in the United States are Blue 1 and Blue 2. Blue 1 and 2 are commonly found in cereals and frozen desserts such as ice cream (source: FDA).

Among individuals allergic to food dyes, Blue 1 is a common culprit (source: IJOMEH). Therefore, as mentioned above, monitor for adverse effects after consuming Blue 1. 

With so many different dyes for food to navigate, I hope you found this article helpful in deciphering which added colorants to limit during pregnancy.