A Dye Free Halloween

Since Halloween is fast approaching and I know there are a lot of parents out there who are wanting to avoid food dye and other chemical additives in their children’s candy I wanted to link to a post that I wrote last year entitled Halloween in Crunchville – Dye Free Candy. Within the post I link to many websites that sell dye free candy and other treats.

Today we bought Camden’s Halloween candy from Squirrels Nest (which we adore!). They have a really nice Halloween sampler pack for $13.95. You can find all of their Halloween products HERE but hurry, they go fast! They also sell a sampler pack that is gluten free and casein free.

Halloween in Crunchville – Dye Free Candy

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I grew up celebrating Halloween like millions of other kids in America. I enjoyed it. Probably for no good reason other than it was fun to dress up and I like candy. Is that a good reason to perpetuate the Holiday? I don’t know but frankly I’m not ready to morally question Halloween yet. I like it and for now that is enough. Rather than a moral dilemma, I have had a bigger concern with how to allow my daughter to participate in Halloween without being bombarded with artificial dyes and flavors that turn her into a raving lunatic as well as peanut containing products which could send her to the Hospital in anaphylactic shock.

I was VERY happy to have stumbled upon Yummy Earth candies. We purchased their 5lb bag of Organic Assorted Lollipops at a 50% discount since we are Feingold members. We received the suckers within days and let me just tell you these things are DELICIOUS! They taste way better than any store-bought suckers not to mention they are all natural. The flavors in the assorted bag are delectable – pomegranate, watermelon, tango mango & lemon. They are literally the best suckers I have ever had.

So for those of you also concerned with how to get your artificial dye sensitive child some safe candy you can purchase lots of different varieties online. We just plan on letting her Trick-or-Treat like normal and at the end we will exchange all of her candy for the “safe” candy. If I had more time and felt like it I would just pre-visit my neighbors and ask them to reserve the safe candy for her.

Here is a list of all natural and dye free candy:

Yummy Earth

Jewels of Denial

Squirrels Nest

Pure Fun

Divvies

Dolphin Natural Chocolates

Simon’s Candy Company

Sunspire

CrispyCat Candy Bars

Glee Gum

YC Chocolate

You may also have good luck finding dye free and natural candies at places like Trader Joe’s & Whole Foods.

It’s About Time

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The immature side of me wants to say “neiner, neiner, neiner” and “I told you so!” But instead I will clap my hands and be thankful that finally some scientific studies that corroborate what observant parents have known for a long time and that is that food additives (food coloring and flavoring) can cause far reaching effects in children’s behavior and health. This study simply addresses a short term exposure of 6 weeks and explicity examines hyperactivity but it is a good start.

Here is the article on the study:

New study links food additives to hyperactivity in children
23 hours ago
PARIS (AFP)
A cocktail of artificial colours and the commonly-used
preservative sodium benzoate are linked to hyperactivity in children, according to a ground-breaking study published Thursday by The Lancet.
The implications are far-reaching, say the investigators, who suggest that by
vetting their child’s diet, parents have a simple tool to help them tackle
hyperactive behaviour.
Researchers at Southampton University recruited 153 local three-year-olds and 144 children aged eight or nine and assigned them to either of two groups.

One group received an ordinary fruit juice and the other was given a drink
identical in look and taste that contained common commercial additives. Both
drinks were supplied to parents in identical, sealed anonymous bottles.

The “additives” group itself was split into two batches. Some children were given “Mix A,” a drink which contained artificial colourings typically found in a couple of 56-gramme (two-ounce) bags of sweets.

Others were given “Mix B” which had a higher level of colourings, equivalent
(in the dosage for the eight-year-olds) to consuming the additives in four
such bags of sweets.

Both mixes had the same amount of sodium benzoate.

Before the six-week trial began, the researchers asked parents and teachers
to assess the child for overactive, impulsive and inattentive behaviour — the
hallmarks of hyperactivity.

A third yardstick was given by trained observers (in fact, psychology
graduates), who sat discreetly in the classrooms and noted each child’s behaviour according to an international set of measures.

For the first week of the trial, the children followed their typical diet.
After that, sweets and drinks with additives were withdrawn, and parents were asked to substitute with the trial drink instead.

The amount of the drink given to the child was in proportion to the amount of
artificial colouring removed from their usual diet. The parents did not know
whether the drink was Mix A, Mix B or the placebo.

Six weeks later, the children were assessed again for hyperactivity.
Mix A had a “significantly adverse” effect on the three-year-olds, although
Mix B made no difference on this group. In the older children, both Mix A and
Mix B had a strong effect.

“Overall, children who took the mix moved about 10 percent closer to the
definition of being hyperactive,” lead author Jim Stevenson, a professor of
psychology at the university, told AFP.

“We now have clear evidence that mixtures of certain food colours and
benzoate preservative can adversely influence the behaviour of children,” said Stevenson.

“However, parents should not think that simply taking these additives out of
food will prevent all hyperactive disorders. We know that many other
influences are at work, but this at least is one a child can avoid.”

The first caution about food additives and their impact on child health were
made more than three decades ago, but evidence to give flesh to this warning has been scant or contested as unscientific.

In the past decade, hyperactivity has — apparently — ballooned into serious
proportions in some countries, stirring controversy along the way.

US doctors commonly see hyperactivity as a medical condition
(attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, ADHD) and prescribe a potent drug, ritalin, to treat it.

Other experts speculate that hyperactivity has social causes such as home
instability and poor education, and say use of powerful, mind-altering drugs is
dangerous.

In the new study, Mix A comprised 45mg of sodium benzoate and 20mg of
artificial food colourings, namely sunset yellow (European food code E110),
carmoisine (E122); tartrazine (E102); and ponceau 4R (E124).

(P.S. neiner, neiner, neiner!)

Here are other things I’ve written about food additives and artificial dye:

Eating a Rainbow

Bathing in a Rainbow

Dangerous Popcorn

Bathing in a Rainbow

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My daughter woke up from her nap and walked over proudly displaying a lifted shirt. “Look at my spots!” she declared. I ignored her at first. She had said something about her spots the night before and I hadn’t seen anything. Then I looked again and saw little red spots all over her torso. My heart panicked. I pulled her close to inspect her. She had raised red spots all over. Chicken Pox? No, definitely not. Rash? Doesn’t look like it. Hives? I think so. My heart is doing loopdey loops while I do a mental check of what she’s eaten the last several hours. You see, my daughter has a fatal peanut allergy that we carry an Epi Pen for and I was really hoping it wasn’t going to be needed. I removed her clothing and checked out the location of the hives. Stomach, back, thighs, butt. Hmmm? I snap some pictures. I’ve learned that if I need to take her in, the medical world really likes pictures. It helps to confirm you’re not crazy (well, maybe not – but my doctor’s enjoy using them to collaborate allergies).

The mom I babysit for suggests that maybe its location would be indicative of a reaction to laundry detergent. Hmm? I consider it. Perhaps. We did use a new laundry detergent a week and a half ago, while camping. I ponder on that one for awhile and then conclude that’s not it. We used it once and she hasn’t worn any of the laundry in the recent past. I consider a bubble bath she had the night before. Would a bubble bath irritate her skin that much? It was her first one.

My daughter is itching like crazy. Scratch. Scratch. Scratch. I call my really knowledgeable mama friend that knows everything about natural remedies and herbs. Not home. I bound to the computer to pop off an email to my AP support group and then I wait. Yes, they confirm it looks like hives.

Scratch. Scratch. Scratch. I need to do something about this scratching. I look at her again looking for any signs of swelling, difficulty breathing, anything. She’s fine, just scratching. I rummage through the cupboard. We’ve got nothing topical. I conceed and decide I will give her some Benadryl. I was hoping for something more natural. At least it is dye free. Dye free. Wait a minute.

The wheels start to spin. I had grabbed the bubble bath out of my cupboard because Camden didn’t have any. It was pink. Oh man! I didn’t even think about it! The soap had been a gift years ago so I had never bothered to check the label, never even thought about what might be in it while I poured about 4 TBSP in her bath. I was used to reading the labels of food, not bath products. I went to get the bottle knowing what I would find.

There it was: Blue 1, Green 3, Red 4, Red 33, Yellow 5, Yellow 6

Ugh. Well, at least I had confirmed I wasn’t crazy about my daughter reacting behaviorally to consuming artificial dyes. If she got hives all over her body from soaking in them then certainly it isn’t unreasonable to assume she will have a very negative emotional reaction to eating them. What I found strange is that the bath was given the day before.

I ask my trusty AP group if a reaction can be that delayed. They think so. I google hives. Yep, delayed reactions. Well, I guess that makes sense. My daughter has delayed reactions when she eats dye too.

So there you have it. Conclusion? Don’t bathe your children in a rainbow either.

Eating a Rainbow – Red #40 and it’s Sidekicks

Lucky Charms

We all know rainbows are beautiful. They are always a treasure to discover and a sight to behold. What is not beautiful is the rainbow of crap that we allow this country to feed to our children every single day. American children consume more chemicals in their food then you’d care to believe. Our young children whose bodies are most at risk during these important years of growth are inundated with processed foods that contain little to no nutritional value.

There was a point where I didn’t really care and I didn’t really see any harm in it. I grew up on eating boxed snacks and I got fruit snacks in my lunch and I enjoyed an occassional bowl of Lucky Charms or Captain Crunch. I knew they weren’t really good for me but I didn’t see them as being *bad* for me.

Once at a La Leche League meeting I overhead some mother’s discussing their child’s sensitivites to food dye. My daughter was about a year old at the time and I was a little floored by this conversation. This mother shared how she systematically discovered that many of her childrens behavioral problems had been caused by eating foods with artificial food coloring and most especially red #40. The whole thing sounded rather complicated and totally not fun. Who wouldn’t want to let their kids eat blue frosted cupcakes at a Birthday Party or enjoy Halloween candy? Who would want to spoil childhood?

But I am lucky that that conversation stayed in the back of my head, it saved my daughter a trip to the Emergency Room.

My daughter was 20 months old. Just before bed she became hysterical. It started small, not wanting to get pajamas on but quickly escalated into something I had never, ever witnessed from her and I know my daughter very well. She was screaming and crying and was completely inconsolable. She also became physically violent and was trying to hurt me – a first in her life. This went on for about an hour and she finally became delirious enough that she allowed me to nurse her to sleep. My head spun and I couldn’t quite figure out what that was all about. Little did I know that was just the beginning.

At 11:30 that night just when I was heading off to bed I heard Camden start crying hysterically in her room (not typical). The whole ordeal lasted until 1:30 in the morning. She was crying and screaming in pure hysteria. It was truly insane. As a mother that practices Attachment Parenting I had never witnessed anything like this from my child before. It was the most difficult thing to watch my child who was in utter chaos and be able to do nothing for her. She was in a state of panic and rage. She was afraid of me and would not let me near her. She ran from me and hid in mine and my husbands walk-in-closet. Her body literally shook all over as she cried. She was not asleep, she was not having a “night terror”. This was so beyond that. She would cry out to nurse and then as soon as I’d reach for her she’d scream and push me away. She started banging her head on the wall. I was ready to take her to the Emergency Room. I literally thought something had gone wrong in her brain. I finally forced my way into the closet with her and held her against her will. She kicked and clawed at me and screamed. I sobbed with her. I was a broken mother. I was helpless. I was scared. I finally convinced her to nurse but she only allowed me to support her head. She layed on the floor and nursed while trying to touch me the least amount possible. When she was finally in a deep sleep I was able to get her back to her bed.

During this whole process I had naggingly remembered the stories that mother had shared with another young mother at that LLL meeting almost a year before. I thought about what had happened before Camden went to bed and then it hit me. Camden had eaten cherry Yoplait yogurt before bed. Could it really be that? I walked to the kitchen and grabbed a container of yogurt and read the ingredients. Red #40 bounced blaringly back at me. I ran to the computer and googled red #40 and sensitivity. I buried myself in reading until the wee dawn of morning crept into the office. My daughter really was sensitive to dye.

It took many months and many more exposures before we truly believed that this was not a figment of our imagination. The second reaction was worse than the first. In fact, it was so bad that my husband had to leave the house – he couldn’t bare to be around it. She was foaming at the mouth and slamming her head into the kitchen cupboards. It lasted for several hours and in the end I had to hold her against her will as she kicked and hit me with all of her little might. I sobbed that night with my daughter again. I vowed to stop using her as a chemical experiment. I prayed for the attack to subside soon.

After that I started reading a lot. I read:

The Crazy Makers: How the Food Industry is Destroying our Brains and Harming our Children

Why Can’t My Child Behave?

Nourishing Traditions

I also joined the Feingold organization. This is where I learned the most information and received the most help. They also have a Yahoo Group that is free to join and I highly suggest checking it out if you can’t afford to join the Feingold organization.

It has been a long journey forward from that first reaction. We have made slow and steady progress. Every once in awhile I am tempted to let Camden eat some licorice or enjoy a candy cane. Every once in awhile I am amazed and horrified at what kind of unnecessary things contain food dye – hot chocolate, white frosting, cheese. Every once in awhile I wonder how many of our children suffer from various learning disorders and extreme physical violence and other mental disorders simply because their bodies are literally a dumping ground for chemicals. And for what? To make it look better.

Sometimes I feel like a victim and I play the “why me” card. Why can’t my child be normal and eat this crap like every other kid? Why do I have to be that weird parent that won’t let her child eat regular m&m’s? But you know what, I’m happy it’s me. I’m happy I have learned more about this nations food industry and how awful it really is. I am happy that I am learning about the role that nutritious and whole foods play in the development of the brain and in producing a happy person, in general. I am happy that I am learning.

Someday we will tell Camden about her sensitivity to food dye. For now we avoid it and simply tell her that some foods just aren’t good for us. Or even better, maybe someday America will tell the food industry that we refuse to let our children be the recipients of harmful and pointless chemicals. Maybe we will learn to speak with our dollars and demand that our food be just that … food.

UPDATES: Since this post gets a lot of hits I thought I would centralize some of my other blog posts that address the artificial dye matter.

It’s About Time: A random, double blind, placebo controlled study that was published in the Lancet in November 2007. Finally a break that links dyes and preservatives to hyperactivity.

Bathing in a Rainbow: My daughters severe hive reaction to her first bubble bath which contained artificial dyes.

The Natural Dye Alternative: Information on natural dyes that can be used for baking, cooking and fun crafts.

Halloween in Crunchville – Dye Free Candy: A list of sites that sell natural, dye free candy. It’s delicious too!