Nine petroleum-based synthetic dyes are currently approved for use in food in the United States (Blue 1, Blue 2, Citrus Red 2, Green 3, Orange B, Red 3, Red 40, Yellow 5 and Yellow 6). The Center for Science in the Public Interest has also called into question the safety of caramel coloring, used in soft drinks.

Here are seven tips for avoiding products made with these artificial colors and maybe even getting them out of the U.S. food system altogether:

1) Scrutinize labels. If you see a color next to a number in the ingredients list, skip it.

2) Look for natural food colorants. Examples are Turmeric for yellow, paprika for orange, or beetroot for red.

3) Buy organic. By definition, organic products are certified by the U.S.D.A. to contain no artificial colors.

4) Don’t be fooled by healthy-sounding names. “Fruit” cereals, juice drinks, and yogurts often contain dye.

5) Choose real food. Switch from orange Kraft Mac and Cheese to whole wheat pasta with olive oil and natural cheddar. Swap blue tubes of yogurt for white with blueberries or honey on top. Choose juice over Kool -Aid.

6) Report problems. If your child has reactions to dyes, log on to the CSPI website and report it.

7) Voice your concerns. Contact your representative and call for a ban on artificial dyes in school food. At least one state, Maryland, is working to do so.

Source: CSPI and Robyn O’ Brien, author of “The Unhealthy Truth”