Tartrazine: the Dangers of Eating Yellow

by Pumpkin on September 3, 2013 - 10:48pm


Industrial food dyes are used every day in the production of numerous processed foods. Tartrazine (also referred to as Yellow #5 or E102) is one of the artificial food colourings that is the most used. It is derived from coal tar and it is cheaper than its natural equivalent, beta carotene. A lot of the products that we use consume contain tartrazine: Mountain Dew, mustard, Kraft Dinner, some soaps and shampoos, ice cream, drugs and way more.

The problem is that Yellow #5 can be dangerous. As the author of the article reveals, about 1 out of 10,000 people are highly allergic to it which has made its labelling mandatory. Also, some people have asthma because E102 ingestion. Moreover, tartrazine has been proven to increase the hyperactivity of already hyperactive children, reduce the absorption of B6 vitamins and decrease sperm count. These are few of the many reasons that drew me to write about this topic. It is important for me that people know exactly what they are eating, with what they are feeding their children and what risks accompany their choice.

However, you might ask yourself: “If tartrazine is so dangerous, why is it still on the market?” This is where it gets problematic. Tartrazine is only dangerous for some people; not everyone is affected or reacts to it and there is no way to know how sensible a person is. All of this brings us to wonder:

Should the use tartrazine be banned to ensure the people’s good health?

Personally, I think that the people’s good health is more important. Even if it only affects a small part of the population, I do not believe that they should suffer from the use of E102 only for another small part to make more money out of it. Most people are not aware of the potential dangers of consuming tartrazine and I do not think that it is morally correct to expose them to such important dangers. In my opinion, people should not take this lightly, and they should change their mentality in order to be more conscientious of the products they use. The banning of yellow #5 in Norway and Austria some years ago shows that this chemical is a very serious subject of matter and that it is possible to live in our modern world without it. I am wondering why we should keep poisoning ourselves…

On the other hand, some might think that there is no other choice today than to use tartrazine to produce in mass in order to provide enough products to everyone and at a fair price. Also, it could be argued that since it does not affect everyone, it is not necessary to ban it and that people should to take their responsibilities and can make their own choices. Additionally, people could say that with the society in which we live today, it would be impossible to live without tartrazine. It would be more costly to use natural dyes and it would be difficult to maintain good import/export relationships between countries since so many merchandises that contain this industrial food dye are sent and received all over the world.

The reading of this article made me realize that there is so much we do not know about what we consume. Do you think that other harmful chemicals lie in our everyday products without us knowing or anyone telling us they can be dangerous for our health? Also, should the danger of these substances be made more public, like the dangers of cigarettes and alcohol are?


This comment I have for your post is for my first Ethics assignment and so I have to follow instructions as marked on the outline. (in case you do get confused with what I'm talking about here, please ask me what it is I'm trying to answer in writing comments for the assignment, and I'll get back to you as soon as possible!)

Do people necessarily see tartrazine in boxes; are they aware of their own cause of allergies or symptoms related to dyes, or are they simply going through a convenient life without realizing the implications of it?

What I strongly agree is the defending point on tartrazine, though I do accept the negative health consequences as well. This is because regardless if we can put on a label saying this item contains this dye, or its natural counterpart, I think people should still use the dye to make sure that the supply of dyes is not too limiting, as well as making sure that we create a way to market the dyed merchandises that are heavily based on color where a color would be preferred over another.

This post uses the consequentialism approach; consequentialists are appropriate for analyzing this ethical issue since the dye affects the health, appearance, and economy of goodies and the people who consumed them. Two strong universalizable claims are used: examples of mass-produced items at the beginning of the post, and what are the negative consequences of banning the dye. Most of the issue lies on one instrumental value, “Health.”