Brilliant Blue, not so brilliant.

Once in a while when I make a home visit for a patient, they very kindly offer me a snack to share with them. On one particular occasion, I asked to see the ingredient list for the seaweed that was so generously offered to me. As my patient has multiple food and environmental sensitivities, I thought this would be an educational opportunity for both of us. What ingredients are in this seaweed she consumes daily?

One of the ingredients on the packaging was Brilliant Blue FCF. This was not an additive that I was familiar with so I advised my patient to avoid this product until I was able to do further investigation.

A quick search led me to the European Food Safety Authority journal (2010) which gave their scientific evaluation of the food additive. Within the first paragraph I was already alarmed! A chronic toxicity study in rats led them to the conclusion of a new daily lower acceptable intake for the additive. The Panel established a new ADI to Brilliant Blue FCF equal to 6 mg/kg bw/day.

The report shows that in animal studies, there does not appear to be any carcinogenic effects or impact on reproductive health even with long-term use: a positive review. Somehow, I am still not convinced this is something I want to be consuming on a regular basis. What if 20 years from now, human studies show differently? I don’t want to be a part of that experiment.

Brilliant blue FCF is an example of only one food additive. What is the impact of all of these food additives to our diet? Take a look at any packaged food, any baked good with coloured icing, and even any low-quality vitamin with colouring. You will see a host of food colourings and additives. Let’s not be part of the experiment! Be mindful of the foods you eat. Be cautious of any ingredient you cannot pronounce. When in doubt, have that conversation with your Naturopathic Doctor. We are tuned into the role diet plays in regards to health. I say it every day, ‘We are what we eat.’ In this case, I really don’t want to be Brilliant blue, but Brilliant Me without any colouring!
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As for my patient, she was thankful when I shared the information with her. She was no doubt upset by the fact that she was regularly eating large quantities of the seaweed snack because she thought it was healthy for her. A good lesson for all of us. Even with foods we deem ‘healthy’, it is still a good idea to check their food labels as well.


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