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Is dyeing Easter eggs harmful to your health?
Just in time for Easter, the USDA says eggs are healthy again. But do pastel dyes present a danger to your children? - photo by Jennifer Graham
Amid the marshmallow Peeps, chocolate rabbits and jelly beans, theres finally something healthy in your Easter basket again: eggs.

After years of cautioning Americans to go light on eggs, the U.S. Department of Agriculture now says we can eat as many Easter eggs as we want at least the kind that come from chickens, not Cadbury.

In its dietary guidelines released in January, the USDA counts eggs among "nutrient-dense" proteins and drops previous warnings about cholesterol and heart disease. The new guidelines note that egg yolks are high in cholesterol, but say there's not enough research to justify government-imposed limits on how many people should have. To which the American egg industry poetically responded, "Yay for nutrient density." (That's from a blog on the American Egg Board website.)

The egg board touts its product as a perfect capsule of protein, "nature's form of portion control" with 6 grams of protein and 70 calories. And it has research to support its claims, including a study from Iowa State University that showed an egg-based diet boosted vitamin D levels in rats, and another that says children who ate egg-based breakfasts consumed less at lunch than children who ate cereal or oatmeal.

So eggs are OK, but what about the dye, since the Easter bunny works under the table and has no USDA stamp of approval?

The Center for Science in Public Interest warns that widespread use of artificial coloring is causing hyperactivity and ADHD in children, and manufacturers from Mars to General Mills have pledged to stop using manufactured dyes in their products.

But if it's just not Easter in your household without a bottle of vinegar and a handful of PAAS tablets, you're probably OK. The iconic egg-coloring kits have been around more than a century.

And in a March 17 report on food-dye safety, U.S. News & World Report said while artificial colors may present risks to those with allergies or heightened sensitivity to the ingredients, for most people, it's not the dye, but the product being colored that isn't good for you.

Writer Anna Medaris Miller interviewed Joy Dubost, a registered dietitian and food scientist in Washington, D.C.

"Unlike CSPI experts, who cite loopholes in the FDA's policies, which they say allow unsafe dyes to wrongly meet the legal standard of safety, she trusts the work of FDA scientists, who've concluded that the colorful additives approved for use in our food supply are generally safe when used appropriately," Miller wrote.

"In other words, a green drop or two in your muffin mix isn't a big deal if you're not sensitive to dyes."

Translation: If you want to color a few eggs with commercial products and your children aren't allergic to dye, hop to it.

If you'd rather play it safe, you can make your own colors faster than you can say Yellow Dye No. 5, according to Good Housekeeping magazine, which says you can add blueberries or red cabbage to boiling water to make blue dye, paprika to make orange, tumeric to make yellow and red onions to make green.
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