Food Dye Allergies

You think that there is something that is causing your child an allergic reaction, yet you can’t figure out what it is. He is able to eat nuts and peanuts; eggs don’t bother him, nor does wheat or shellfish. Even milk is agreeable to him. So what could it be? Did you ever consider that the dyes in food could be causing your child allergies? If not, you may want to think about this one.

According to this article, food dye allergies are not uncommon, but are usually undiagnosed, so only a small percentage is definitively allergic. However, many cases go undiagnosed. The most common dyes that cause allergies are reds and yellows (especially yellow #5). Think about all that your child eats, from popsicles to fruit punch, to candy to birthday cake frosting, even crackers and yogurt. It’s hard to steer clear of it, but it may be just what your child needs.

The symptoms of a food dye allergy can be just as severe as other food allergies, in extreme cases, anaphylaxis can occur. In other cases, symptoms can range from hives to eczema to runny nose and congestion. It can be immediate or take place several hours after ingestion, and just like other food allergies, all it needs sometimes is a very tiny quantity to produce symptoms.

Even ADHD like symptoms can result from a food dye allergy, especially to the red dye. Many parents of children diagnosed with ADHD have taken all food colorings out of their children’s diets and seen remarkable improvements in behavior. Studies have shown that there is a firm link between food dyes, allergies and ADHD like behavior (see Food Dye can cause Severe Allergic Reactions). I remember a boy in my daughter’s kindergarten class who had an allergy to red food dye. It was clear that when he ingested it, he exhibited ADHD like behaviors. This can be very difficult for children, as schools are prone to seek labeling and perhaps special services, when all they need is a modification in their diet.

If you suspect a food dye allergy, what should you do? Since it is difficult to test these allergies in traditional ways (i.e. a scratch or blood test), an elimination diet is a good idea. Take all foods with dyes out of your child’s diet and monitor how his symptoms behave. If there is a significant change, you may have found your culprit. If you don’t see a change (and be patient as well as diligent) there may be some other factor responsible.

The Feingold diet

The Feingold diet is based on the theory that certain foods and food additives should be eliminated from an individual’s diet to improve overall health and behavioral patterns as well as their learning abilities. Such effects of food additives can cause behavioral conditions such as ADD/ADHD, oppositional defiance disorders, as well as physical illnesses like Asthma.

Specifically, the Feingold diet starts by removing foods which contain synthetic dyes, artificial flavoring and common preservatives from the diet.  Foods containing salicylate (natural plant chemical that helps it resist pests and diseases) found in common herbs, fruits, and in some drugs and personal care products.  Food additives, flavor enhancers, and artificial colorings in particular have a neuotoxic effect on the human nervous system. Afterwards, each food will slowly be introduced into the diet to check for any reactions.

The place to get up to date and accurate information about the Feingold diet is from the Feingold Association, a parent support group that continues the work of Ben F. Feingold, MD

As with any other allergy, if your child does have a food dye allergy, you will have to adhere to avoidance for best results and to maintain your safest measures. If reactions are severe (and even if they aren’t), you should obtain an Epipen from your doctor in case of emergency.


  1. Thank you, my girl has food dye allergy. How do I know? Well, the severe emotional swings, ADHD type symptoms, a general combativeness in her behavior that is a quick-onset from the happy, delighted she’d been just a few moments before when she was happily eating her french fries and BLUE ketchup. (it must take a bunch of blue dye to turn red tomato ketchup blue!)

    Someone recently commented “It’s only candy!” when told she must not have all this colored Halloween candy, and that chocolate or non-food colored foods and drinks are alright. There you go; the battle I fight constantly that her food allergy is reduced to, “it’s only..”

    That worries me for the many other children and adults who encounter this attitude. What are they being given that is “only” peanuts, food colored, milk or milk-derivative containing foods?

    Our kids trust us to do right by them, to protect them. The attitude that nothing is wrong with certain foods is sadly prevalent, and in the case of anaphylaxis, could cause very great harm.

    Thank you for this article!

  2. Hi I was writing this comment cause I’m looking for. Little Advice. My son turns 3 in 17 more days and I wanna make him a cake for his birthday but he can’t have frosting. He is Allergic to the dyes in the frosting. I was hoping to find a way to make frosting without all the dyes. Please let me know if you k.ow of a way I can make frosting without having to use Dyes. Thanks

  3. Hi I was looking on line about allergies to the dye in frosting. My son turned 1 yesterday and we got him a smash cake which was colored blue. He enjoyed him self smashing it and putting it all over him self and hair. Once he was done we put him in the bath tub to clean him off and that’s when I noticed that he was all red with hives everywhere the frosting touched him and since he ate the cake his whole body started to break out in hives. I gave him Benadryl and with in an hour they slightly went away and by morning it was gone. I would like to know if there is a way I can make dye free frosting ?? I don’t want him to miss out on a special day because he is allergic to the dye in the frosting 🙁

  4. my daughter is now 20 and has seizures we have traced down to all food colorings but Carmel. no dr was helpful in this it took the suggestion of a distance healer to know to stop dyes and when we did her seizures stoped and now when she eats anything with food dye she seizes with in 20 min. just about all food has a dye in it even apples and other fruit

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *