What Exactly are the Colors in Candy?

Who doesn’t love the many vibrant colors of Halloween candy? It’s not surprising that children are drawn to it, but what if beneath this brilliant surface lurked a serious health threat? According to research, many of the colors in candy are not as harmless as we might wish to believe. Worse than that, some of these colors are proven carcinogens.

There are many different colors approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use in food and candy. Some of these colors include: FD&C Blue Nos. 1 and 2, FD&C Green No. 3, FD&C Red Nos. 3 and 40, FD&C Yellow Nos. 5 and 6, among others. These colors are commonly found in candy, concentrated fruit juices, condiments and some cheeses, to make them seem more attractive to consumers. While artificial colors may make foods seem more attractive, it has a much darker effect on human health, having been linked to cancer, allergies, and hyperactivity.

Here’s some information about a few of the ingredients found in candy and other processed foods:

FD&C Red # 3—According to the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), as early as 1985, the acting commissioner indicated that artificial coloring red #3 caused cancer, but other individuals at the FDA obviously prevailed because three decades later the food additive is still in use. Worse than that, it’s in use in foods that particularly appeal to children whose bodies may be more vulnerable to the chemical. Research by the CSPI found that over 200,000 pounds of red #3 are dumped into Betty Crocker’s Fruit Roll-Ups and ConAgra’s Kid Cuisine frozen meals and more than 5 million pounds of the chemical have been used in food manufacturing between 1985 and 2010.

Carmine is a red dye classified as a “natural color” by the FDA, which is technically accurate, but less than appealing when you understand that it’s derived from crushed beetles. It has been found to cause severe allergic reactions in some people. Considering there are so many plant-based natural colors that offer red hues, such as cranberries, pomegranates or beets, it’s unacceptable that candy manufacturers haven’t already made the switch from either red #3 or carmine to natural options.

Yellow dye #5, also known as yellow 5 or tartrazine, is a yellow food color derived from coal tar. According to the CSPI, yellow #5 contains an established carcinogen known as benzidine, which can be undetected by the FDA’s own purity tests, but show up in a form that is 100 times worse once it makes its way into the colon. In a study published in the journal Toxicology, researchers also found that tartrazine acts as an estrogen disruptor in humans. Known as xenoestrogens, unnatural substances can throw off the delicate hormonal balance potentially causing a range of health problems, including: breast cancer or breast development in men.

I think my sister, Bobbi-Jo Meyer, the proprietor of Sweet Greens health food store in Hagersville, Ontario, Canada, has found a great way to ensure her kids can have their Halloween and eat their candy, too. They participate in all the fun of trick-or-treating and then she does the candy trades when they get home, swapping their unhealthy options for healthier choices. That way she doesn’t spoil their fun, but still ensures her kids stay clear of the carcinogens and hormone disruptors found in most candy.


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Julie Pham
Julie Pham1 years ago


Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallus3 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

Jim Ven
Jim Ven3 years ago

thanks for the article.

Robin H.
Robin H3 years ago

I would like all unnatural food coloring banned from ALL edible products, both for humans and animals,

Loesje vB
Loesje Najoan3 years ago

Why food colouring is legal If it's crap and unsafe for consumption? :(

QA Watte3 years ago

Go natural candy = no problem

Melissa DogLover
Melissa DogLover3 years ago


Angela K.
Angela K3 years ago

Thanks for sharing

Ana R
ANA MARIJA R3 years ago

Thank you for the reminders. :)