Q: Should I worry about food dye allergies?
Natural and synthetic food dyes and additives have been implicated in anaphylaxis cases. Reports have become more common as consumers have started asking for more products with natural ingredients. Food manufacturers have been replacing synthetic food additives and colors with compounds derived from plants, insects, and animals. Because most allergies are caused by proteins from other living organisms, this switch to natural agents has been associated with an increase in allergies to these substances. As examples, case reports have described the potential for anaphylaxis with annatto, carmine, psyllium, and guar gum.
That said, documented cases of food dye allergies are still very, very rare. More often than not, something else is causing a patient’s symptoms. Whenever a child or adult has had an allergic reaction, it’s important to have an in-depth conversation to discover and address the root cause of the reaction.
There are no allergy tests for food dyes, but keeping a food log with foods consumed and any symptoms can help pinpoint problems.
—By Gregory Owens, MD
Dr. Gregory Owens is an allergist and immunologist at Vancouver Clinic. He treats asthma, food allergies, seasonal allergies, and other conditions in adults and children.