Colorless Valentine’s Day: Unmasking the Dangers of Food Dyes in Our So Cherished Caf Delights

By Jazmin Santos

As we rejoice in the romantic spirit during this spring season, Nicolson Commons serves up vibrant delights to mark the occasion. From green cookies on St. Patrick’s Day to red muffins for Valentine’s Day and other colorful treats, it’s hard not to appreciate the effort put into making our dining experience visually appealing. However, I feel obligated to suggest a colorless Valentine’s Day this year.

As the Christian theologian Miroslav Volf pointed out, “There is something deeply hypocritical about praying for a problem you are unwilling to resolve.” To me, this statement resonates profoundly when considering the prevailing issue of student’s physical and mental health. As a Christian community, we often express collective concern for the well-being of students, offering prayers for our health and success.

However, there is an unsettling lack of correlation between words and actions which makes me feel called to communicate it to our student body. Instead of merely hoping for improved well-being, it is crucial to actively engage in policies that promote a thriving environment. Fostering a community that is not only imploring for health but also addressing the challenges impacting student health.

Despite Point Loma Nazarene University students’ tendency to express discontent at the Caf’s menu, the cafeteria dedicates itself to preparing tasteful delights. However, while these vibrant food dyes add a touch of cheerfulness to our meals, it’s crucial to recognize the potential health risks associated with excessive artificial food dye consumption. In fact, according to the National Library of Medicine, an article titled “Toxicology of food dyes,” highlights that “all of the nine currently US-approved dyes raise health concerns of varying degrees.”

Notably, a correlation between the consumption of these additives and hyperactivity behaviors, allergic reactions and even carcinogenicity has been found. Although it is not ‘spooky season’ I dare to say it’s even scarier to know that — according to the author and journalist Charles Duncan — many foods and additives that we eat every day have been banned for years in other countries. For instance, the New York Times article “What Foods Are Banned in Europe but Not Banned in the U.S.?” reported that products with dyes Yellow No. 5 and No. 6, as well as Red Dye No. 40, must include a warning label indicating that the coloring “may have an adverse effect on activity and attention in children.”

In fact, an article published in April of 2022 in Environmental Health journal “Potential impacts of synthetic food dyes on activity and attention in children: a review of the human and animal evidence – PMC” found, “Potential impacts of synthetic food dyes on activity and attention in children” brings up “[c]urrent evidence from studies in humans, largely from controlled exposure studies in children, [that support] a relationship between food dye exposure and adverse behavioral outcomes in children, both with and without pre-existing behavioral disorders.”

As consumers, it’s essential for us to be informed about the ingredients in our food and the possible consequences they may have on our well-being. Particularly, amid the demanding exam period, let’s avoid being absent-minded in our studies and feeling down or anxious. So as we approach Valentine’s Day, I propose to have a color-less celebration: not white, not pink and very certainly no red-40! Let’s also engage in a dialogue about the use of food dyes in our cafeteria. 

Are there alternatives that can be explored to maintain the romantic spirit of Valentine’s Day without compromising our health? By raising awareness and advocating for transparency in our dining options, we can foster a campus environment that prioritizes both celebration and well-being.