Fake Colours are Not your Friends

So you like to eat healthy? You buy a lot of natural products, and generally believe in cutting crap like fillers, additives and synthetics out of your life?

But what about your soaps, cosmetics and even your birth control pills?


Well unfortunately some companies are still able to manufacture products using artificial colours such as Tartrazine and Sunset Yellow.   

Street Name:

Tartrazine – FD&C Yellow Number 5”, “E-102,


(Looks like party string, but there’s no party here)

Sunset Yellow – Sunset yellow FCF

Sunset Yellow

These bad boys have been subject to much debate and reviews from health and safety standards the world over, but somehow they’re still allowed in many ingestible and cosmetic products.

These coal-derived colourings are actually xenoestrogens – in this case, a synthetic xenohormone that imitates estrogen.

Not only does is this a bad thing for women everywhere, especially those with predilections for breast and cervical cancer, but also because it has been identified as novel human Endocrine Receptor Alpha (ERα) activators, activating the human ER in high concentrations (Axon, May et al 2012) aka BAD NEWS.


ERα is a ligand-dependent nuclear receptor that is important in breast cancer genesis, behavior and response to hormone-based therapies.

Estrogen receptor alpha (ERα) plays an important role in breast development, tumorigenesis and treatment and is a major marker for prognosis and therapeutic response in breast tumors that express ERα . ERα-positive (ERα+) tumors make up the majority of breast cancers and are typically treated with antiestrogen or aromatase inhibitor therapies to block ERα activity  (Greene, Lainé et al 2011).

You are told that the pill may potentially increase the chance of cervical cancer, not your mac n cheese!?

A study conducted and published in the Journal of Toxicology (Vol 298: No 1-3, pp 40-51) called “Tartrazine and sunset yellow are xenoestrogens in a new screening assay to identify modulators of human oestrogen receptor transcriptional activity” theorised that Primary Biliary Cirrhosis (PBC) – a cholestatic liver disease occurring most frequently in postmenopausal women – may be triggered in part by chronic exposure (high doses) to xenoestrogens such as Tartrazine and sunset yellow.

The data suggests that compounds like tartrazine and sunset yellow – whilst not the cause – may be a component contributor to the development of cholestasis and which in combination with other factors, could predispose to the development of PBC.

Not only do these common household colourings potentially contribute to cancer, they also have links to catalysing asthma and recurrent urticaria, and memory deficits in animals.

Memory Deficits

The Journal of Regulatory Toxicology and Pharmacology published a study about the risk assessment of Tartrazine in 2007 and found a link between Tartrazine and intolerances to recurrent urticaria or asthma.


Although not deemed conclusive, a 2011 study conducted by the Journal of Food Science (Gao et al) found that Animals that were administered different doses of tartrazine for a period of 30 d and were evaluated by open-field test, step-through test, and Morris water maze test, respectively. The results indicated that tartrazine extract significantly enhanced active behavioral response to the open field, increased the escape latency in Morris water maze test and decreased the retention latency in step-through tests.

Basically, Tartrazine was found to produce neurotoxicity deficits in learning and memory in mice & rats in excess doses; however more study on the matter is needed to provide a conclusive argument.

Although in each of these studies, the test subjects were exposed to high doses of these artificial colours, it does raise questions about the long-term effects that may arise from consuming these colourings… Food for thought, or not (see memory deficits)!

This is why Protein Supplies Australia ONLY uses **NATURAL** colours in our products, with most colours derived from Beetroot or Curcumin.

So next time you’re at the shops thinking about whether or not you should make that rainbow birthday cake for your kids/ friends/ self maybe stop and have a rethink about where these colours come from… It’s almost the stuff of nightmares!

kid screaming

Reference List:

  1. Ali, Coombs, 2000, “Estrogen receptor alpha in human breast cancer: occurrence and significance”, Journal of J Mammary Gland Biol Neoplasia, Vol. 5:3, pp 271-81.
  2. Axon, May et al, 2012, “Tartrazine and sunset yellow are xenoestrogens in a new screening assay to identify modulators of human oestrogen receptor transcriptional activity”, Journal of Toxicology, Vol 298:1-3, pp 40-51.
  3. Elkhim, Heraud et al 2007, “New Considerations Regarding the Risk of Tartrazine: An update toxological assessment, intolerance reactions and maximum daily intake in France”, Journal of Regulatory Toxology and Pharmacology, Vol. 47:3, pp 308-316.
  4. Gao, Li et al 2011, Effect of Food Azo Dye Tartrazine on Learning and Memory Functions in Mice and Rats, and the Possible Mechanisms Involved”Journal of Food Science, Vol. 76:6, pp 125-129.
  5. Tanaka, Toyohito, 2006, “Reproductive and Neurobehavioural Toxicity Study of Tartrazine Administered to Mice in the Diet”, Journal of Food and Chemical Toxicology, Vol. 44:2, pp 179-187.
  6. Walker, Zang et al, 2011, “RAC3 is a promigratory co-activator of ERα”, Journal of Oncogene, Vol. 30:17, pp 1984-1994


  1. http://indulgy.com/post/jpHjhKYQK1/inject-lemons-with-food-coloringfun-for-a-them#/do/page/1
  2. https://www.google.com.au/search?q=kid+screaming&espv=2&biw=1477&bih=1301&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjU0N-u1YrLAhWkLqYKHZZDDY0Q_AUIBigB#tbm=isch&q=kid+screaming+halloween&imgrc=EwH9kiPezCMAbM%3A
  3. https://www.google.com.au/search?q=Sunset+Yellow+colouring+molecular+structure+3D&espv=2&biw=1477&bih=1301&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiJ68nU1IrLAhUl6KYKHSL0CHgQ_AUIBigB#imgrc=dYoJk3h-4AzlaM%3A
  4. https://www.google.com.au/search?q=Tartrazine&espv=2&biw=1477&bih=1345&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjM7eOl1IrLAhXIH6YKHQP1AHcQ_AUIBigB#imgrc=TmhqyF66aZ4ShM%3A
  5. https://www.google.com.au/search?q=products+containing+tartrazine&espv=2&biw=1505&bih=1301&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjw9rXB2YrLAhUiJ6YKHUqJALMQ_AUIBigB#imgrc=0plRaA9d3ixTgM%3A