What is Kool-Aid colored with? Is it colored with Procion dyes?
Kool-Aid and other artifically colored food products are dyed with a
small range of "coal tar" dyes that have been approved by the FDA. A
rumor surfaced, a few years ago, that claimed that Procion dyes are used to color Kool-Aid drink
mix. However, t this rumor is a complete fabrication.
Food dyes, such as those in unsweetened Kool-Aid, can be used as
acid dyes, for protein fibers, such as wool, or for nylon. Heat is
required. They do not yield satisfactory results when used on
cellulose fibers such as cotton, because they lack the chlorine atoms
of the Procion dyes that can react with cellulose, such as is found in
cotton, for example.
Comparison of Procion MX (dichlorotriazine) dye with FD&C Red #40
The most popular artificial color in the U.S.
is FD&C red dye #40, also known as
allura red, whose structure is shown on the left. Note that although
there is some resemblance between the structure of allura red with the
chromophore system of the dichlorotriazine dye, the
structure of allura red completely lacks the reactive system, which is
the cyclical region with two chlorines projecting from it; this is the
section that reacts with and binds to the fiber in reactive dyeing,
allowing the dye to be so very satisfactory with regard to its
resistance to being washed out of clothing.
The remaining certified food dyes that are legal, in the US, to use in a
food product such as Kool-Aid, are brilliant blue FCF (FD&C Blue
#1), sunset yellow FCF (FD&C yellow #6), indigotine (FD&C blue #2),
fast green FCF (FD&C green #3), erythrosine (FD&C red #3), and
tartrazine (FD&C yellow #5). None of these is a reactive dye; all lack
the dichlorotriazine structure of Procion MX dyes.
Procion dyes are quite safe when used as directed - never consume the
dye, nor breathe the dye powder - but have not been tested for safety
when consumed. It is important to always follow reasonable safety
precautions. The majority of artificial food colorings that have been
used over the years have turned out to be at least somewhat harmful
when eaten, and have subsequently been banned for use in food.