petroleum, coal tar, and popsicles?

The sun is blazing, the pool is open, the kids are energized, and school is on its way out!  This could only mean one thing – SUMMER is on the horizon.  I for one, could not be happier!  I ♥ summer.  The smell, the late nights, the campfires, the smores, the sand, the swimming, the people, the parties, the food.  Need I go on?  Okay, one more thing…frozen treats.  Popsicles!  Popsicles!  Popsicles!  Freezy pops, italian ice, ice cream cones, and lots of yummy summer fun!

All these goodies are so colorful and pretty!  And refreshing.  And easy to market to kids.  I mean what kid doesn’t like the bright colors of the rainbow?  Or a box of crayons?  Or better yet, a rainbow-colored popsicle that looks like a crayon?  Popsicles are a summer staple and they are oh so good.

One question though:

Would these treats look less appetizing if instead of listing

Red 40, Yellow 5, or Yellow 6

(which sound harmless) on the food label,

it listed

Food dyes derived from petrochemicals?  yum. yum. yum.

Did that grab your attention?  Would you knowingly feed your child ingredients derived from coal-tar or petroleum?  Probably not.  Yet we do it every single day in this country.  I know if I were reading a food label and saw the words ‘petroleum,’ ‘petrochemicals,’ or ‘coal-tar,’ I would immediately put the product back on the shelf and I bet you would too.  The problem is we aren’t properly informed on what ingredients go into the foods we consume.  Get this, food dyes were originally synthesized from coal tar and now they are synthesized from petroleum.  Yes, chemical byproducts of petroleum are what make those red popsicles so red!  Uhhh, gross.  Food dyes have long been controversial because of their possible health risks.  No kidding?  Oh and they are in almost everything!  From frozen goodies to yogurt to chips to mustard to Jello to lemonade to Poptarts to salad dressings to candy.  You name it.

The problem…

Recent studies linking food coloring to hyperactivity and ADHD in kids is causing some experts to call on the FDA to ban foods containing them – or at least require a warning label.  The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) says the dyes are a “rainbow of risks” for children and can cause allergic reactions, hyperactivity, and even cancer.  I must point out that 1 in 17 children have allergies in the US, 1 in 10 have ADHD, and 1 in 5 are obese.  Despite those concerns, manufacturers put about 15 million pounds of eight synthetic dyes into our foods each year, according to the CSPI.

And now for the kicker….

Per capita consumption of dyes has risen five-fold since 1955, thanks in part to the proliferation of brightly colored cereals, fruit drinks, candies, and yes popsicles, all pitched to our children.

How do we avoid them?  How can we possibly go dye-free?

First read this: to educate yourself on food dyes.

Second, avoid synthetic dyes by choosing organic products. Organic standards prohibit the use of these dyes in products bearing the USDA Organic label.  Organic products use natural food colorings such as:

Red = Beet Juice or Paprika

Orange = Carrot Juice

Purple = Grape Juice

Green = Seaweed or Spinach

Yellow = Caramelized Sugar

Blue = Blueberry Juice

Third, read your food labels!  If you see colorings such as Blue, Red, Yellow listed on the label, don’t buy it.

11 thoughts on “petroleum, coal tar, and popsicles?

  1. Oh yummy… not :-p

    lol As I’ve mentioned before, I’m more “soft and squishy” than “crunchy”, but we’ve avoided food dyes for years, especially Red40. When my kids were small, I let Jessi have a little red koolaid in her sippy cup… and the result was projectile vomiting.
    Tried again a few weeks later, same result. This time I was sure it was the koolaid. Fast forward a couple years to Arek, and same response.

    Both kids have outgrown their sensitivity to the stuff, but we still avoid it. Nothing like some violently colored vomit to put you off a product forever…

    Thanks for the heads-up! Feels good to know we’re doing something right with our often-sketchy eating habits. I’m passing the word along to my mommy-friends as well. Yikes. It’s truly scary what’s going into our food these days.

    • Yikes Mary! I believe there is nothing worse than colored vomit! As far as the dyes go, it drives me crazy that we have to search beyond the product label to understand what we are eating. I have to say food dyes are pretty hard to avoid ALL of the time. They really are in everything.
      And yes, our food has become scarier. Don’t get me started on GMO’s!
      ♥ Lisa

      • Oooh but there are. LOL Your kids are littler than mine, so I guess you haven’t entered the world of a marble-sized stone stuck in your child’s knee after falling on a gravel driveway, or having your six year old try to take your van for a drive (He landed in the neighbor’s ditch… broke the suspension in the back end… thankfully he was fine. I, on the other hand, had nightmares for over a year.) Or your daughter falling six feet from a clubhouse ladder and landing on her arm, breaking it in two places…

        Some days food is the last thing on my mind. It’s discouraging to know we have to fight so hard to eat healthy. 😦 I do my best to provide them with as much fresh fruit and veggies as possible, and avoid the over-processed, sugar-stuffed, high-fructose nastiness that comes in all those colorful bags and boxes and wrappers, but it seems as if even the “good and fresh” things have pitfalls.

        It’s enough to make a mom want to move to the back country somewhere and start a garden… except all the plants at Tractor Supply are hybrids… where does it end?
        (By the way, I can share my proud day- my kids spent the day putting in their own little veggie garden. Beans, squash, potatoes, leeks, onions, and they want me to get them some tomatoes. It’s so good to see them working so hard on a project that will be good for the whole family. 🙂 I ❤ my kids.

  2. Just a question… im not a mom whose “organic” but i want to be. Just found out my son is allergic to milk, after doctors appointments upon doctors appts and xrays and trying all different things… we have found now what works for him. He is only 8 months old. What would you recommend for a kind of baby food, a kind of baby wash, a kind of laundry soap? Anything would be helpful. Iam not one for making baby food, i just dont have the time and i get assistance from wic to buy it. But i would make his laundry soap if you have a recipe. He has very sensitive skin. We’ve tried burts bees, aveeno, johnsons and cvs brand. The only thing that doesnt break his skin out is johnsons. Thank you 🙂

    • Hi Caroline! I am happy to hear that you have finally figured out what works for your son! As far as your questions:
      Baby food- I often used Earth’s Best Organic baby food in the glass jars. You can also make your own (I know time is of the essence!), but it’s pretty easy. Just steam some organic carrots or organic peas and mash them! You can even make larger batches and put them in ice cube trays to freeze for later. One or two cubes is a perfect serving size.
      Baby soap/shampoo- Buy some Castille Soap (Dr Bronner) and some essential oils (tea tree, lavender, or any scent you love), a foaming dispenser and some distilled water. Mix 1/4 cup of castille soap and 3/4 cup distilled water, add in about 8 drops of an essential oil, pour into the foaming dispenser and your done! Perfect for washing your baby’s hair and body! One thing to remember is that this is NOT tear free so you need to avoid getting it into your little one’s eyes.
      Laundry detergent-We usually use Seventh generation, but I am interested in making my own as well. I will have to search Pinterest and get back to you!
      Let me know if you try any of these!
      Good Luck!

  3. We’ve avoided artificial dyes, flavorings and preservatives since our sons were preschoolers. They are now adults with kids of their own and continue to watch what they eat. I so wish more parents were more aware of the connection between diet and behavior.

    My experience as a teacher and one that has worked with families all these years, I’ve seen that they really do not grow out of it. The reactions are just manifested differently and perhaps more subtly but they are still there.

    I’d like to plug 2 helpful resources, if I can. One is the support group the Feingold Association, a support group formed by parents in 1976 to help each other eat better. The website is The other is a message board I co-moderate:

  4. Thanks for writing about this long-known yet little-discussed health issue. I love the way you pointed out that no one would buy these if the label read “petroleum”! Love your popsicle picture too! I blog about our family’s discovery of our dye allergies, and how our lives changed after ditching the dyes. It’s not too hard to go dye-free in an affordable way. Last week I posted “Revamp Your Pantry In 3 Easy Steps And Ditch The Food Coloring For Good!”, and a couple of weeks ago I wrote about avoiding dyes at school events. I collect guest blogger stories to help spread awareness, and I created a FaceBook page where parents come to ask questions, offer support, and share dye-related news. Next week I’m launching a discussion forum on my site, and in a couple of weeks I’ll have kids’ t-shirts for them to wear at summer camp (to help caregivers know that they’re not to be fed dyes). There is just so much that parents (and grandparents) still don’t know! But I encourage people to vote with their dollars instead of waiting for the FDA to catch up with other industrialized nations. Adopt a food manufacturer, ask them when they’ll #DitchTheDyes, and avoid buying products that still have dyes. A slight shift in the market due to consumer demand can have a huge affect on a manufacturer. Ahhh, I could go on, sorry. 😉 It’s my passion…

  5. Pingback: BOO! Wake UP! | Mommy OM

  6. Pingback: BOO! Wake UP! | Mommy OM

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s