Prevalence of Artificial Food Colors in Grocery Store Products Marketed to Children

Clin Pediatr (Phila). 2016 Oct;55(12):1113-9. doi: 10.1177/0009922816651621. Epub 2016 Jun 6.


Artificial food colors (AFCs) in foods and beverages may be harmful to children. This study assesses the percentage of grocery store products marketed to children that contain AFCs, by category and company. The research team collected product and food-color information about 810 products in one grocery store in North Carolina in 2014. Overall, 350 products (43.2%) contained AFCs. The most common AFCs were Red 40 (29.8% of products), Blue 1 (24.2%), Yellow 5 (20.5%), and Yellow 6 (19.5%). Produce was the only category that did not have any AFCs. The highest percentage of products with AFCs was found in candies (96.3%), fruit-flavored snacks (94%), and drink mixes/powders (89.7%). Forty-one of the 66 companies marketed products containing AFCs. Given concerns about health effects of AFCs and high proportions of high-AFC categories, clinicians, parents, food companies, and the government can take steps to support children's healthy eating and development by reducing AFCs in children's diets.

Keywords: artificial coloring; artificial food colors; artificial food dyes; color additives; marketing to children.

MeSH terms

  • Beverages / statistics & numerical data*
  • Child
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Food / statistics & numerical data*
  • Food Coloring Agents*
  • Humans
  • Manufactured Materials / statistics & numerical data*
  • North Carolina


  • Food Coloring Agents