Yellow food dye can cause mild to severe allergic reactions if you have a sensitivity to one or more chemical components in the product. Manufacturers use this synthetic dye, referred to as FD&C Yellow No 2. 5 or tartrazine, in many food products, and you will need to read ingredient lists carefully to determine which processed foods contain this additive. If you suspect an allergy, know the symptoms and common food sources to help you prevent complications 1.

Is This an Emergency?

If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, seek emergency treatment immediately.

Allergic Reaction Symptoms

Common allergic reactions to products such as:

  • yellow dye include hives
  • skin itching
  • stomach pain
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • diarrhea

A severe reaction may result in swelling of your lips and tongue, as well as difficulty swallowing or breathing. You may also experience chest pain. If you experience these or any other symptoms, contact your doctor immediately. For chest pains and difficulty breathing, seek immediate emergency medical attention. If you have a severe allergic reaction, your doctor may prescribe epinephrine for you to keep on hand at all times. This injectable medication will typically reduce swelling and other severe symptoms immediately. You will still need to seek medical attention to ensure management of your symptoms.

Asthma-Induced Reactions

Early studies of tartrazine in the 1950s linked yellow dye to the occurrence of asthmatic episodes. The studies were anecdote- and observation-based, which may not have provided the most accurate data, according to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. More recent studies cannot confirm these early findings. If you experience asthma attacks that you believe stem from the consumption of yellow dye products, however, talk with your doctor to determine appropriate treatment.

Additional Health Concerns

Yellow food dye may be linked to a number of conditions that could inhibit learning and other cognitive functions in children. Potential concerns include an increase in hyperactivity, aggression, irritability and sleep disturbances, reports the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy. If your child experiences one or more of these conditions, your doctor may recommend eliminating yellow dye to determine if this moderates the behaviors or condition.

Avoiding Yellow Dye

If you suspect an allergy to tartrazine, eliminate products containing this synthetic dye. This includes candy and many processed foods such as cookies, crackers and cereals. As well, many boxed, easy-to-cook or instant foods contain yellow dye. If a product contains yellow dye, the food label will list this additive as an ingredient. Other items, such as medications and cosmetic products, may also contain yellow dye. Your pharmacist can tell you whether your medications contain yellow dye. For cosmetics, you will need to research cosmetic ingredients either online or through the company’s customer service department.