Is Yellow 5 Vegan?

If you’re considering a change in diet, veganism can be challenging. Even though there are plenty of plant-based options to choose from, factoring in what you can and cannot eat takes time and research. Reading food labels and opting for natural foods becomes second nature as you peruse the grocery store. 


However, say you want to try out a new product, but see that the manufacturer listed yellow 5 as one of the ingredients. You don’t know much about this food coloring or its background, leaving you wondering: is yellow 5 vegan


That’s a good question, and in this article, we’ll dive into what exactly this food coloring is and whether or not it’s safe for someone wanting to avoid animal products. Additionally, we’ll address some health concerns alongside a few natural alternatives for those who want that recognizable yellow color without breaking their vegan dedication.

What Is Yellow 5?

The Food and Drug Administration originally approved yellow 5, an artificial food color, in the late 1960s. Its purpose is to make foods, specifically highly processed foods such as candy, soda, and breakfast cereals, more appealing, fresh, and flavorful. This food coloring could also be called FD&C yellow, tartrazine, or E102.


The FDA endorsed yellow 5 for oral drugs, medications, and cosmetics in later years. Yellow 5 is one of the most frequently used food colorings worldwide and is popular amongst companies due to its versatility. Brands frequently mix yellow 5 with others to make numerous food coloring shades.  

Where Is Yellow 5 Used?

A common misconception is that Yellow 5 should be obvious to spot because it turns everything into a bright, lemony hue. But, that’s not necessarily the case. Companies easily throw yellow 5 into their products without you realizing it, so it’s best to check food labels. 


Inedible products often use this food coloring, such as: 


  • Toothpaste and mouthwash
  • Lipstick and nail polish
  • Detergents and shampoos


A few common food items that contain yellow 5 include:


  • Processed pastries or baked goods
  • Brightly colored sodas
  • Kids’ fruit drinks
  • Candy 
  • Breakfast cereals
  • Pre-packaged pasta mixes
  • Frozen desserts, like popsicles
  • Gelatin 
  • Frosting 
  • Sauces
  • Yogurt 
  • Processed vegetables, like pickles
  • Chewing gum 
  • Vitamins 


In short, you can find yellow 5 in almost anything. You may have to be more conscientious when browsing the food aisles, depending on your decision of whether you want to avoid or indulge in this food coloring in your vegan diet.

Can Vegans Eat Food With Yellow 5?

Here’s a quick science lesson; yellow 5 is an azo compound, meaning that this coloring includes sodium, oxygen, and sulfur alongside carbon, hydrogen, and nitrogen.


What does that mean? The previously mentioned elements are naturally occurring, so technically, yellow 5 would be considered vegan. Researchers make yellow 5 synthetically, and it does not come from an animal product. Instead, this coloring originates from byproducts of petroleum.


Nonetheless, yellow 5 is often tested on animals. Therefore, it’s a debatable and controversial product regarding vegetarianism or veganism


Ultimately, consuming yellow 5 depends on your personal preferences, what you value, and your overall goals in choosing this diet. Unfortunately, this food coloring remains difficult to determine whether or not it’s vegan based on various beliefs. 


In summary, artificial colors are not for ethical vegans or those who don’t want to purchase a product because of related animal testing.     

Reasons To Avoid Yellow 5 On a Vegan Diet 

Many vegans generally avoid junk foods, preferring to eat unprocessed or minimally processed products, believing that numerous manufacturing steps take away from the nutrition of raw ingredients. Since yellow 5 is made in a commercial lab and is an artificial product derived from isolated chemicals, it adds no nutritional value to the snack or meal.  


Some vegans do not consume food coloring due to animal testing. Others stand against animal cruelty through veganism, especially if the researchers discard or kill the animals while pursuing research or at the end of the study. Yellow 5 is most often tested on mice and rats, while other food coloring uses dogs as test subjects.  


While researchers conduct this testing to determine the safety or danger of individual products before public consumption, involving animals might pose an issue for specific vegans. 

Will Yellow 5 Ever Be Vegan In The Future?

Even though some products only need one examination at the beginning to verify their safety, food dye routinely needs to be tested due to the possibility of serious health side effects. In other words, animal testing for food dyes remains in the foreseeable future. 


Theoretically, not supporting a product because it is not vegan is supposed to reduce demand, affecting the manufacturer. With how widely spread the use of yellow 5 is, it’s doubtful that boycotting this product will make a noticeable difference in total consumption rates. 


Choose to avoid junk food, seeing that’s where yellow 5 most often lurks. When you don’t have access to an ingredient list, be mindful that you might eat something with yellow 5. 

Options To Use Instead

Most natural food coloring is vegan and derived from plants, apart from carmine. Crushed beetles make that substitute not very vegan-friendly. 


The good news is that many food industry brands are switching to natural ingredients, replacing food dyes and coloring with alternatives. 


Here’s a list of a few examples vegans could choose from:


  • Paprika
  • Annatto
  • Beetroot extract
  • Lycopene
  • Saffron
  • Carrot oil

How To Make Homemade Yellow Food Coloring

Cooking at home ensures that your food is free of food dyes. You can snag fresh or powdered turmeric for a cheaper and vegan-friendly alternative. Turmeric has a strong taste, so you can mix it with apple juice for a vividly yellow color that’s safe for all vegans. 


Use three parts fresh apple juice and one part turmeric juice. Remember that a little can go a long way for flavoring and coloring your dish! 

Yellow 5 Health Risks

It’s much safer to limit your consumption of yellow 5, even if the FDA regulates how much a product can have. Using natural alternatives, as seen above, will likely result in fewer health risks associated with food colorings.


For instance, eating significant amounts of artificial coloring links to cancer and blood cell damage. Furthermore, fruit juices containing high amounts of food coloring mixtures contribute to hyperactivity in children. Others could have allergic reactions.


Yellow 5 and other food dyes can be harmful and toxic if you consume moderate to high amounts. The more you eat throughout your life, the more likely you could develop health problems. Several European countries banned yellow 5 and other food dyes due to these concerns.


So, is yellow 5 vegan? Despite yellow 5 being an artificial human-made product, it’s not generally considered vegan due to the rigorous animal testing behind the scenes. With that in mind, consider reducing sugary and processed foods if you’re concerned with eating this food dye.


Since yellow 5 appears in so many products nowadays, it might be hard to limit your intake. But by trying out the above alternatives, you can have peace of mind that you achieve the same bright color without condoning animal cruelty.


Having a well-balanced diet with healthy fats, grains, fruits, veggies, and other protein options confirms that you won’t eat anything unethical and that you’ll get the nutrition you need daily with a plant-based diet.


Hopefully, you gathered new information after reading this article and can confidently make choices regarding your unique, individual veganism journey.



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Is Yellow 5 Vegan? Is It Made From Pork? 

Is Yellow 5 (Tartrazine) Vegan? Food Dye Explained

Homemade Food Coloring (All Natural + Vegan)

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Jason Hughes
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