FD&C Yellow #5

What is FD&C Yellow #5?

FD&C Yellow #5 is a synthetic food dye used in food, drugs, and cosmetics in both the US and Europe (1).

It is the 3rd most common dye used in food products marketed to children, behind Red #40 and Blue #1 (2).

Other names for FD&C Yellow #5:

  • Tartrazine
  • E102 (European name)

Foods that may contain FD&C Yellow #5:

Products that may contain FD&C Yellow #5:

  • E-cigarettes
  • Hand Sanitizer
  • Makeup
  • Medications (can check ingredient at this website)
    • All US prescription medications containing Yellow #5 must contain the following warning notice:
    • “This product contains FD&C Yellow No. 5 (tartrazine) which may cause allergic-type reactions (including bronchial asthma) in certain susceptible persons. Although the overall incidence of FD&C Yellow No. 5 (tartrazine) sensitivity in the general population is low, it is frequently seen in patients who also have aspirin hypersensitivity.”
  • Mouth Wash
  • Personal care products, like body wash
  • Pet food, like dry cat food and Meow Mix
  • Toothpaste

How is FD&C Yellow #5 metabolized and absorbed?

The absorption of Yellow #5 is relatively low (<5%) and is mostly excreted in the urine (34).

However, Yellow #5 can be metabolized by gut bacteria to a compound called sulfanilic acid, which some researchers propose may be carcinogenic or change behavior in rats (human research is needed) (567).

Is there a maximum amount of FD&C Yellow #5 allowed per day?

The European Unions’ Acceptable Daily Intake (ADI) is 7.5 mg/kg/day (8)

The upper limit set by the Joint FAO/WHO committee is 10 mg/kg/day (9).

Can people have adverse reactions to FD&C Yellow #5?

Yes! There have been reports of Yellow #5 causing hives, asthma, and allergic reactions in humans, but the prevalence is relatively low (~4%) (101112131415). It also happens to be more common in people with aspirin allergy (1617).

One study also found that a sub-group of kids had behavioral disturbances (in a dose-dependent manner) when given tartrazine (18). Symptoms were irritability, restlessness, and sleep disturbances.

Examples of ways that people have reacted include:

  • Anaphylaxis to yellow dyes in an enema (19)
  • Asthma in response reaction to yellow dye in the menopause drug Premarin (20)
  • Skin rash from a cheese crisp containing yellow #5 (21)
  • Purpura (spots of blood underneath the skin) after yellow #5 exposure (22)

While human studies are lacking, animal studies suggest that FD&C Yellow #5 may slightly inhibit mitochondrial function if it is absorbed (23).

It may also impact the immune system. One animal study found an increase in white blood cells in the stomach after high doses of yellow #5 to were given to rats (dose of 7.5 mg/kg/day, the EU’s ADI) (24).

Test tube studies have found that high doses of yellow #5 are immunosuppressive to human white blood cells and cause DNA damage to animal cells (but these effects have not been tested for in actual humans) (252627).

High doses of Yellow #5 (10 mg/kg/day or one dose of 100 mg/kg) can cause DNA damage in the colon of mice, but no studies have found an increased prevalence of actual tumors, malignancies, or birth defects due to high doses of Yellow #5 (2428293031).

Natural alternatives for yellow coloring:

Natural alternatives to Yellow #5 include:

  • Annatto
  • Beta-carotene
  • Malt color
  • Turmeric
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