What to Know About Yellow 5 Food Dye

Medically Reviewed by Christine Mikstas, RD, LD on February 25, 2024
3 min read

Food dye is an artificial product that’s added to many food products to make them look more appealing. Yellow 5 food dye is also known as tartrazine. This pigment dissolves in water and has a bright, lemon-yellow color that is used in many foods and drinks. 

Yellow 5 is a popular food color because manufacturers can mix it to make numerous other dyes. You may consume Yellow 5 as part of your regular diet. It can be found in a variety of foods, including:

  • Cereal
  • Sodas
  • Gelatins
  • Frosting
  • Spices
  • Sauces
  • Yogurt
  • Juices

This popular dye can also be found in drugs, cosmetics, and even paint.

Other common examples of products that contain tartrazine include:

  • Lipsticks
  • Mouthwash
  • Toothpaste
  • Detergents
  • Shampoos
  • Vitamin pills

Tartrazine is also used in food for cats, dogs, fish, birds, and small rodents.

In the 1920s, there was some controversy about whether or not tartrazine had negative effects on the health of children. Some people claimed it caused hyperactivity. But it wasn't until 1973 when these concerns started gaining attention in the scientific field. Research suggested that certain food additives, including salicylates, caused learning problems in children.

‌Further research failed to prove these claims.  In 2004, an attempt to demonstrate the correlation between tartrazine exposure and hyperactivity failed to provide conclusive results once again.

The Food Agriculture Organization and the World Health Organization conducted safety studies to test tartrazine in 2017. They concluded that occasional exposure to this food dye doesn't represent a significant health concern in children or adults.

Yellow 5 food dye and your respiratory health. Analysis determined that some sources of tartrazine might have particles of respirable size. This means you can breathe them in. Because exposure to this food dye is common, you'll probably come into contact with Yellow 5 dust at some point.

Limited studies on human subjects haven’t reached a conclusion on the safety of inhaling tartrazine. Because there's no definitive evidence to confirm or deny that inhaling Yellow 5 food dye can be toxic, public health authorities classify tartrazine as potentially hazardous.

Yellow 5 food dye and your skin health. Tartrazine may cause skin irritation and sensitivity, but there is limited data available to back up these claims. One study on children aged 1 to 6 found that it worsened eczema symptoms in at least 1 in 12 people.

Research has shown that the possibility of tartrazine causing other skin problems, like acute urticaria (or skin rash), is low.

It’s estimated that less than 0.1% of people have a sensitivity or intolerance to Yellow 5 food dye. These people may have hives, itching, coughing, and vomiting when exposed to it.

One study analyzed different amounts of the controversial food dye in pet biscuits. There was no conclusive evidence of tartrazine causing harm to animals.

In the U.S., Canada, and many countries in the European Union, products that contain Yellow 5 food dye are legal. They must be sold with a warning label. The label should read that the product might cause allergic reactions like bronchial asthma. Tartrazine sensitivity is often present in people with a sensitivity to aspirin.

Many of the items in your pantry might have this food coloring in their ingredients. It probably poses no harm to you and your family in moderation. But if you want to stay away from tartrazine, take a closer look at the labels of your food, medicine, and cosmetic products. Yellow 5 food dye may appear in the ingredient lists in the following forms:

  • 1310 or 1409 Yellow
  • Acid Leather Yellow T or Acid yellow 23
  • Calcocid Yellow MCG
  • Cilefa Yellow T
  • Dye Yellow Lake
  • E 102
  • E102
  • Hispacid Fast Yellow T
  • Hydrazine Yellow
  • Lake Yellow
  • Lemon Yellow A Geigy
  • Maple Tartrazol Yellow
  • Oxanal Yellow T
  • Tartraphenine
  • Tartrazine
  • trisodium salt
  • W-107716
  • Wool Yellow
  • Xylene Fast Yellow GT
  • Y-4

‌‌Talk to your doctor if you’re concerned about how Yellow 5 might affect your health, especially if you have a history of sensitivity to food dye products.