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What is Yellow 5?

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Quick Answer

Yellow 5, also known as tartrazine, is a lemon yellow azo dye approved by the FDA for use in food, cosmetics and drugs. Like all azo dyes, it is synthetic, organic and has ?N=N? as part of its molecular structure.

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Full Answer

Yellow 5 is often found in cake mixes, soft drinks, noodles, cereals, condiments, popcorn and chewing gum. Non-food items containing Yellow 5 include lotion, toothpaste, nail polish, temporary tattoos, shampoo, crayons, envelopes and cleaning products. While it is most often used to dye products yellow, it is sometimes added to Green S or Brilliant Blue FCF to make various shades of green.

This artificial coloring is made from petroleum and manufactured in laboratories. Its manufacturing process leads to carcinogen contamination, which has raised some health concerns. Annatto, a dye made from achiote seeds, is sometimes used as a natural alternative to Yellow 5.

While it is believed to be safe when used according to the FDA's specifications, it can have adverse health effects on sensitive individuals. According to researchers at the University of Guleph, approximately 0.01 percent to 0.1 percent of the population is sensitive or intolerant to Yellow 5. The additive has been linked to ADHD, migraine headaches, eczema, hives and cancer, and has been banned in several European countries, including Sweden, Germany and Norway.

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