Battle for Easter: True vs. Killer Colors

Written by Aimee Wharton
Posted April 13, 2017 at 8:00PM

There's a huge paradigm shift happening right now in the food industry — a move from artificial to natural colors.  

Natural dyes made from ingredients like paprika, beet juice, and turmeric were once a niche trend among the organic crowd, but now they're gaining ground and becoming the norm. Even “Big Food” companies like Mars, Kraft, and Taco Bell are stepping up to make the switch from toxic additives to natural colors. 

This is an important crossroads, given the amount of scientific evidence condemning synthetic concoctions with names like “Blue 2,” “Green 3,” and “Yellow 5.”

Killer Colors

Bear in mind that these artificial colors are FDA-approved, and each year more than 15 million pounds of them are poured into U.S. food products.1 

Yet for James Huff, the associate director for chemical carcinogenesis at the National Institute of Health's Toxicology Program, these dyes clearly pose “unnecessary risks to humans —  especially young children. It’s disappointing,” he adds, “that the FDA has not addressed the toxic threat posed by food dyes.” 2

For others, it's beyond disappointing. It's downright horrifying.

In a recently published scientific report titled, “Food Dyes: Rainbow of Risks,” the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), found that all nine of the currently FDA-approved dyes are associated with serious health concerns. 

For example, CSPI says Blue 2 “cannot be considered safe given the statistically significant incidence of tumors,” particularly brain tumors, in laboratory animals. 3

Green 3 had its own carcinogenic effect, causing “significant increases in bladder and testes tumors in male rats.” 4

Red 3 was recognized back in 1990 as a thyroid carcinogen by the FDA, and subsequently banned from cosmetics and topical drugs... but it's still allowed in food and oral drugs, and Americans swallow 200,000 pounds of it per year. 5

The rest of the “colors” stack up no better. 

“In addition to considerations of organ damage, cancer, birth defects, and allergic reactions,” CSPI says, “mixtures of dyes (and Yellow 5 tested alone) cause hyperactivity and other behavioral problems in some children.”

So the last thing you want to give a child hopped up on Easter candy is an egg that's been soaked in a colorful chemical cocktail. The good news is, you don't have to pass on this holiday tradition.

Instead, gobble down naturally dyed Easter eggs and feel safe sharing them with your family...

How to make all-natural, homemade Easter egg dyes

If you've ever had purple fingers after eating blueberries or left a brilliant yellow turmeric smudge on the countertop, then you know these natural stains have staying power. 

Nature is full of vivid colors, and you can use brightly colored spices, fruits, and vegetables, and even beverages like red wine and coffee, to make great natural dyes for Easter eggs. 

Here are some dyes to try:  

Fruits — crushed blueberries, raspberries or blackberries. Green apple skins. 

Spices — turmeric, paprika, chile powder. 

Vegetables — yellow or red onion skins. Chopped beets, spinach, or red cabbage (strange but true: red cabbage how to dye eggsturns the eggs blue.)

Liquids — cherry juice, red wine, strong-brewed coffee or tea. 

Feel free to experiment and get creative with colors. One blogger's results are to the right.6 


  • Bring dye matter and water to a boil. Turn heat to low and simmer for 15 -60 minutes, or until you reach your desired color. The longer you simmer, the more concentrated the color will become. 
  • Rule of thumb: Use one cup of water per cup of mashed fruits/ veggies, and one cup of water per 1-2 tablespoons of spice. If using a liquid dye like coffee or juice, no need to add water. 
  • Turn off heat, and set mixture aside until it cools to room temperature. 
  • Pour the dye through a strainer into mason jars or bowls. Straining the food pieces gives the eggs a solid finish, or you can leave the food pieces in for speckled-looking eggs. Stir in one tablespoon of vinegar per cup of liquid. 
  • Add hardboiled eggs to the dye containers, making sure they're fully submerged, and stick them in the fridge to set (12-48 hours). The longer they set, the richer the hues will become. Tip: To create patterned eggs, you can wrap rubber bands around them (tightly), or draw designs in crayon before submerging in the dye liquid. The waxy portions will remain undyed. 
  • Peel, eat, and enjoy!

Best wishes for wellness, 


Aimee Wharton 

Editor, Health Wire

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