What is FD&C Yellow #6?

A synthetic food dye used in food, drugs, and cosmetics, in both the US and Europe (1 ).

It provides a yellow-orange color when used.

Other names for FD&C Yellow #6:

  • Sunset Yellow FCF
  • E110 (European name)

Foods that may contain FD&C Yellow #6:

Products that may contain FD&C Yellow #6:

How is FD&C Yellow #6 metabolized and absorbed?

It appears that a very small amount of the intact dye (~1.5%) is absorbed by rats and excreted in the urine and bile within 24 hours (2).

Slightly more of the azo-metabolites is absorbed (~8.5%) and 37% of the metabolite sulfanilic acid is absorbed (2).

Is there a maximum amount of FD&C Yellow #6 allowed per day?

The European Unions’ Acceptable Daily Intake (ADI) is 4 mg/kg/day (3)

Can people have adverse reactions to FD&C Yellow #6?

Yes, adverse reactions have been reported:

  • Facial itching and swelling have been reported in 1 woman who took an iron supplement containing Yellow #6 (4).

Studies on the health effects have been mixed:

Mice fed extremely large amounts of Sunset Yellow (2000 mg/kg/bw) for 2 days did not show any evidence of genotoxcity in their colon cells, so large amount, short-term, do not appear to cause harm (in mice) (5).

When high concentrations of FD&C Yellow #6 were mixed with human lymphocytes, increased cell damage was detected (compared to similar doses of curcumin, which is often used as a “natural” yellow dye). However, the doses used were much higher than humans would be exposed to through food (6).

FD&C Yellow #6 has also been shown to increase the release of pro-inflammatory mediators from neutrophils when exposed directly (but it is unclear whether the same would happen when consumed orally in small doses) (7).

Interestingly, rats fed diets containing 2.5mg of sunset yellow per kg body weight (within the human ADI) for 4 weeks showed evidence of worsening liver and kidney function, increased oxidative damage, and lower oxidative status than rats fed water (8).

New research is looking at the additive effects of multiple dyes and preservatives. 

Very high doses (200 mg/kg) of Sunset Yellow in combination with 750 mg/kg of sodium benzoate has been linked to a small increase in cell damage/mutations in rats (9).

Natural alternatives for yellow coloring:

Natural alternatives to Yellow #6 include:

Erica Julson Functional Nutrition Library

Erica Julson is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist based in sunny California. She has over a decade of experience in food writing and recipe development and is the proud founder of four blogs in the food and nutrition space. Erica has also been part of Healthline's Nutrition Team and is an expert at translating research into helpful information for readers.

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