Beware Annatto! The natural food color masquerading as the safe alternative

Annatto seed

Annatto seed

Years ago, I learned from my sister who was raising two boys at that time, that food color was
bad for them, even more so than sugar, causing hyperactivity, inattention and behavior issues.
So I knew to remove those foods from my son’s diet from a young age, except for the occasional treats he gets at parties and school.

I read food labels religiously, so was baffled when he reacted to certain foods.  Besides being hyper active, he would bang his body repeatedly against the floor by jumping from the couch to the floor and only stopped when physically restrained.  Like everything else about treating autism, we went through a process of elimination. In this case, it wasn’t too difficult because he has a controlled diet, so it was relatively easy to trace the variable – it turned out to be Annatto – found in the healthy “safe” foods we fed him!

Wisegeek definition : Annatto, also called roucou, is a natural plant extract used to dye an assortment of foods, textiles, and body care products. Primarily, it is used as red / orange in a wide assortment of foods. The food additive number for it is E160b, allowing consumers to identify it on a label even when it is not listed by name. One lesson I learned, “natural” does not mean no side effects especially for ASD kids because what seems harmless may result in adverse reactions from these children.

While countries in Europe are banning artificial food colors, the food industry in the US is adding food color. Did you know that even white chewing gum has blue dye?!  Maybe the color of natural gum is brown and unsavory looking? Like farm raised salmon whose natural color is a dull grey before being artificially enhanced with red food color. So much of our food have been tampered by the food industry, and we wonder why our kids are sick.

But to me, Annatto is insidious because it is described as a “natural’ color, suggesting “safe” marketed to unsuspecting parents. In fact, a doctor I consulted with, a respected and knowledgeable MD who went into alternative healing and nutrition did not realise that Annatto can have the same effects as artificial food color.

I found this wonderful website that gives a clear, detailed explanation on the subject, with stories from parents from around the world on how removing Annatto has modified their children’s behavior!
Here’re the list of “healthy foods” that contain Annatto which we avoid:
  • Juice Plus – I have almost a moral obligation to point out because it’s sold as a supplement, even on autism websites. We were recommended the Fruit and Veggie gummies by the doctor and friends, but instead of helping, it worsened his behavior.  It was so bad for him that I gave away both his Fruit and Veggie bottles of gummy to my massage therapist, though it was hard parting with them because they were quite expensive.
  • Goldfish snack – so popular for parties, pre-schools, schools, lunch boxes, and now more color choices with Rainbow Goldfish!
  • Packaged Mac and Cheese, to give the cheese that nice, delicious golden color.  Even the healthy versions like Annie’s, found in health food stores.

Also Read : Tastiest, idiot-proof, gluten free, chocolate rice crispies dessert

Kate M

Reformed Corporate Workhorse. Reuser / Recycler. Blogger. Reader. Singapore Girl. San Diego Mom. Believer.

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