Toxic Easter Egg Dyes?

Let's say I'm a young kid who's really looking forward to Easter. I vividly remember all the flashy and bright colors in those egg-dyeing kits, and I can't wait to color eggs again this year.

Except that this Easter, my parents are more worried than ever about artificial food colorings. So they decided to make me use "natural" dyes that, quite frankly, made my colored eggs look kind of faded and half done.

I don't know: if I were that kid, I think I'd be pretty disappointed. Wouldn't you?

Don't get me wrong: I completely understand why parents would think twice about artificial dyes. But if I were going to intercede in my kids' diets to limit artificial food coloring, I'd focus on sugary flavored drinks, super-colored candy, and artificially colored snack foods. Those are food dyes that your kids are actually eating and drinking.

Forget about food colorings you use once a year that you don't even ingest.

Remember, you're only dyeing the outside of the shell of the egg. Not only that, but the vast majority of the dye never gets onto the egg in the first place--it's still sitting in the the teacup you dipped the egg into!

Thus a tiny, tiny fraction of the dye gets onto the shell of the egg, and an even more minuscule fraction of that could possibly penetrate the shell itself. In other words, after eating a few dozen eggs Cool Hand Luke style, you might ingest an infinitesimal quantity of food dye.

Oh, and those natural dye kits? They're more than double the price of the "toxic" Paas egg coloring kits I grew up with.

The former Wall Street analyst in me can't resist thinking how deliciously profitable it must be to charge double for natural egg dye kits that don't really even dye all that well. But then again, capitalizing on peoples' emotion-based fears of toxins and poisons is almost always good for business.

Now, if your kids are literally drinking artificial egg-dyeing liquids by the teacup, I take back everything. But hey, if anyone in your family actually enjoys knocking back a gaggingly vile mixture of vinegar, water and a quick-dissolving food dye pellet, you've got bigger problems on your hands than artificial dyes.

My take? Let's find something more substantive to worry about. Let's get some really rich-colored dyes and let kids make some really flashy, cool-looking eggs. Let's relax and have some fun. And let's focus on more substantive and meaningful steps, like cutting back on food additives and food colorings we actually eat and drink.

Oh, and the best way to win an Easter egg cracking contest is to use your egg's sharp end on the other guy's egg's rounder end. Works every time.

Readers, those of you coloring eggs this weekend, will you pay up for "natural" dyes? Are they worth the extra cost? Or will you stick with regular egg-dyeing kits? Share your thoughts!

How can I support Casual Kitchen?
If you enjoy reading Casual Kitchen, tell a friend and spread the word! You can also support me by purchasing items from via links on this site, or by linking to me or subscribing to my RSS feed. Finally, you can consider submitting this article, or any other article you particularly enjoyed here, to bookmarking sites like, digg or stumbleupon. Thank you for your support!


Louisa said...

I don't have any kids, so no easter eggs for me!

My philosophy is similar to yours, though. Better to worry about the big things(like chemical and dye laden foods, or toxic cleaners you use every day) before you start worrying about bitty things like once a year dyeing of easter eggs.

chacha1 said...

No kids here either. :-) We are no good to you, Dan.

As kids, my sister & I used the Paas kits and no harm was done. Based on that I think this definitely falls into the category of "could we please worry about something substantive instead".

Joanne said...

I think you know that I feel strongly about a lot of all-natural things...but dying easter eggs is NOT one of them. My mom never let us eat the eggs inside anyway, so what would there be to protect against anyway? Getting it on our fingers? Please. So not worth it.

Daniel said...

Thanks for the feedback so far.

One reader told me on Facebook: You don't need to buy natural food dyes! Make your own with food items already in your home!

Which is absolutely true. Stay tuned, and in this week's Friday Links post, I'll have a link to just such a process.


Barbara | Creative Culinary said...

I agree with you and we even eat the eggs...this is not something I spend time worrying about.

That being said, my kids are older and we don't have to do this ritual but I now do some for fun.

And by fun I mean I use beets, blueberries, spinach, tumeric and tea to dye eggs and I actually love the earthy colors that result from that effort. They're more for Easter morning table decor than going into little kids baskets though; I'm not so sure my girls would have thought them cool when they were little!

Jenna said...

Even my ultra-concerned sil was cool with the old school high test dyes we all grew up with (and we're talking about a gal who fed her kids a strict macrobiotic diet and still severely restricts a lot because she doesn't want to 'risk' allergies, but that's a head bang against the table for another day. I will just say that I DO feel bad about what happened at my wedding. Our groomsmen love kids and honestly didn't realize what they were doing when those virgin lips were repeatedly dunked into the chocolate fountain... but on the up side, the kids DID come down from the sugar high. Eventually. Some time in the next month...) right up until last year. The year my nephew discovered you could color your pee if you hold your nose and pound 'shots' of vinegary dye... (my niece was horrified, the young boys... can't be stopped)

So now? No more Easter Egg baths here. Instead?

Markers. Millions (if feels) of markers. Just as vibrant, and able to get even more detail. And no scary ingesting! (although AFTER the holiday, I'LL be stocking up on dozens of the boxes of dye. Not for eggs - no kids in my home yet. But the stuff makes KILLER yarn dye!)

Karin said...

It may have been just a way to avoid having to break the pretty shells to eat the egg, but my mom always blew out the egg innards before we dyed them. She poked a hole in both ends (a larger hole on the side where the egg would come out) and blew for all she was worth! A lot of work, sure, but as compensation she still has eggs that we made as kids. :)

Cousin Jeff said...

My comment is about cracking eggs. One of best tricks on your Uncle Gene was to color a raw egg and make sure he got that one. It took a couple of tries with our hard boiled eggs (along with holding back a lot of laughs), but we finally pulled it off. He was a good sport about it and there was no egg on anyone's face.


Christina @ Spoonfed said...

Hey, Daniel. Thanks for linking to my post. I know you're having fun at my expense and, hey, that's cool, because what's the Internet without a little hyperbole? But read around my blog even a bit and you'll find that egg dyes are hardly my only concern. I'm all about "cutting back on food additives and food colorings we actually eat and drink." In fact, I even link to some posts about that in this post. But back to the eggs: Part of the reason I do this is because it's fun to use natural dyes and to teach kids about natural colors. Oh, BTW, no need to find another how-to DIY post for your Friday round-up. My post is entirely about making your own dyes. (That's how I got those lovely muted colors.) Not sure how you could have missed that...?

Marcia said...

Uh, I kinda forgot about the whole easter egg thing. We probably won't even dye eggs (shh...don't tell!) We will hide our plastic eggs though.

Daniel said...

Hi Christina. Indeed I did spend quite a bit of time reading your blog, and as you can tell by reading this post, you and I are actually not all that far apart when it comes to food colorings and dyes. At least regarding those we ingest.

But, clearly, we disagree when it comes to annual Easter egg coloring. And yes, you did share a home/DIY process but your post led with your purchase of natural food dyes--that cost double.

I think if you were to boil down my view here, it would be that it's better to worry about the big things than to worry about everything. No hyperbole there.


Christina @ Spoonfed said...

Right, Daniel, but if you read the post again, you'll see that I called the dye kit an impulse purchase amid a very busy move. And I wrapped up the piece by saying that the DIY process is so easy that I now question the purchase. (You'll note, also, that I hadn't even received the kit yet when I wrote the post.) Oh, and the colors in the picture (which you referenced in your post) came from the DIY dyes, not the kit. You also set up the egg dyes as my solo concern, which, if you read my blog, you know isn't true. I have no problem if people disagree with me. But I shouldn't be mischaracterized in the process, you know? My bigger-picture view, BTW, is that it doesn't have to be an either-or thing. We can take action on things both big and small, at the same time.

Katie said...

My sister in law is extremely concerned about all things natural and so since Easter was at her place, even though my husband and I brought our Paas dye, she made it clear we weren't using it. We were disappointed, but polite about respecting her concern.

However, I feel the need to point out, no one had fun while using the vegetables to dye the eggs. It was a TON of work and the kids couldn't participate like they would have if we used the Paas kind. I always LOVED decorating eggs for Easter and it has always been a big part of my Easter tradition. It was sad that this year we didn't get to have that experience this year.

I am generally very into the all natural approach. In this instance though, I just don't see the need to worry about it. Next year, we'll be coloring eggs ourself at home.

Daniel said...

Katie, you could always send her a link to this post... or even better, surreptitiously leave this article up on your screen the next time she's over at your home.

Then again, maybe not. :)


Anonymous said...

@Christina, I actually love those earthy tones from the natural dyes. They are beautiful! I think kids can learn to appreciate those colors if the parents will allow them to be exposed to it.

Noel said...

Just let the chickens eat the color pellets then you can have them do the coloring and ingest the dye lol