Food Coloring Allergy

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Have you experienced flushing or hives after eating certain foods? Then you may be allergic to food coloring. The major food dyes responsible for food coloring allergies are carmine (red #4), tartrazine (FD&C yellow #5), and annatto.

Carmine gives food products their red color. It’s the most widely used food coloring agent. It is the main dye found in red meat. Those who suffer from a beef allergy could be allergic to carmine. It’s found in burgers, drinks, candy, and some fruit yogurts. Although carmine is considered a natural food coloring agent, the FDA requires it to be labeled on packaging.

Tartrazine is a synthetic food coloring used to imitate the color yellow. It is the second most widely used food coloring agent. It’s found in cosmetics, personal care products, and many foods. Tartrazine causes the most allergic reactions of all the food colorings; the most common symptom is hives (urticaria). The food coloring agent is also known to cause asthma symptoms.

Annatto food coloring comes from the annatto seed. It gives food products their yellow or orange color. People with peanut allergies have reported having reactions to annatto, so there may be some cross-reactivity involved. Annatto is often found in Mexican and Latin American food. Reactions to this food coloring are usually mild.

Food Coloring Allergy Symptoms

  • Hives (urticaria) /itchy skin
  • Flushing
  • Severe headache
  • Facial swelling
  • Tightness in chest
  • Difficulty breathing

Most symptoms of a food coloring allergy are mild, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take the necessary steps to treat them. Asthma symptoms can become severe after constant exposure to food coloring in allergic patients. These symptoms need to be treated immediately by a board-certified allergist.

Food Coloring Allergy Diagnosis

It is difficult to diagnose a food coloring allergy without a provocation or elimination test. Provocation allergy testing, also known as a food challenge, is done in a clinical setting. An allergist will expose you to the suspected allergen to see if it evokes an allergic reaction. Food challenges can be dangerous, so your doctor will have emergency medical equipment on hand to treat any symptoms.

In contrast, elimination allergy testing is removing certain foods from your diet to see if allergy symptoms subside. This test usually goes on for several weeks. During this time, it’s helpful to keep a food journal to keep track of everything you eat and drink. This will help diagnose your allergy.

Food Coloring Allergy Treatment

While the best course of action is to visit an allergist, you should also avoid certain foods if you believe you have a food coloring allergy. We understand that navigating through any food allergy is difficult; so, we have provided a list of foods that contain major food coloring responsible for allergies along with a list of foods that are free from food coloring.

Foods That May Contain Food Coloring

Frozen Meat and FishSome wines and liqueursJam/Jelly
Soft and Fruit DrinksHard CandyCondiments
YogurtProcessed CheeseIce Cream
Cake MixesCrackers/ ChipsCanned Fruit
PastriesCerealsInstant Pudding

Foods That Usually Do Not Contain Food Coloring

Organic FruitsOatsWheat
Organic VegetablesOrganic Cheese and other Dairy productsGrains
Local Fresh FishRiceQuinoa

You may also need allergy medication to treat your symptoms of food coloring allergy. Since most symptoms involve contact dermatitis, you’ll need a cortisone cream for treatment. Some creams can be bought over the counter, but it’s best to consult with your allergist before trying new products. Your doctor can also prescribe a cream for you.

Asthma symptoms need to be treated with an inhaled corticosteroid that can only be prescribed by your doctor. If you experience wheezing or difficulty breathing after eating certain foods, book an appointment at NY Allergy & Sinus Centers for treatment.

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If you have a food coloring allergy, it is important to read all the labels of the products you are consuming. The allergists at NY Allergy & Sinus Centers can help you determine which food coloring agents to steer clear of. We have easy access to the latest technology to diagnose and relieve your headaches, itchy skin, and other symptoms related to food coloring allergy. We also offer personalized treatment plans to our patients in six convenient offices throughout Manhattan and queens. Call 212-686-4448 to book your appointment today.