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You are here: Home > All About Hand Dyeing > FAQs > General Dyeing Questions > Is Kool-Aid colored with Procion dyes?

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

Kool-Aid dyeProcion dye
structure of allura red structure of procion red MX-5B
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.

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Page created: August 14, 1999;
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