St. Patrick’s Day Traditions: Is Green Beer Dye Bad for You?

By Mary Silver, Epoch Times
March 17, 2015 6:00 am Last Updated: March 17, 2015 11:02 am

Happy St. Patrick’s Day—and welcome to the American tradition of green beer and green rivers.

In some cities, such as Savannah, Georgia, and Boston, on St. Patrick’s Day rivers of green beer flow. 

Ever wondered what’s in the dye? There is actually good green beer dye and bad green beer dye.

Bad Green Beer Dyes

E142 (also known as brilliant green) is derived from coal tar. Oddly, the European Union allows it. EU is normally stricter than the United States about food purity. In Europe it’s used in candy, gravy, cake mixes, canned peas, and ice cream. Side effects? Oh yes! Hyperactivity, asthma, urticaria, and insomnia. You do not want these symptoms.

It’s banned in Canada, Finland, Japan, Norway, Sweden, and the United States, according to the U.K. food guide. 

The FDA has a brain-numbing list of artificial dyes it said are okay, with a mind-numbing list of cautions. So even those that are not banned here have some questions attached.

Most artificial food dyes are not ideal, and E142 is a flat out bad actor. At least in America we need not run into it. 

Most artificial food dyes are not ideal, and E142 is a flat out bad actor.

The ones that are harmless are the ones people have used since the days of the old Silk Road. For example, turmeric, for yellow, and saffron, the world’s most expensive spice, for yellow. Some ancient natural dyes are made from insects, truly! That’s cochineal. But insects are not used to make beer green.

Good Green Beer Dyes

A green beer is poured from a tap at Lynch's Irish Tavern in  Port Huron,  Mich., on Saturday March 14, 2015. (AP Photo/The Port Huron Times Herald, Jeffrey M. Smith)
A green beer is poured from a tap at Lynch’s Irish Tavern in Port Huron, Mich., on Saturday March 14, 2015. (AP Photo/The Port Huron Times Herald, Jeffrey M. Smith)

Spinach, Popeye’s miracle vegetable, can give beer a nice seasonal viridian hue. 

“It’s used to color your food and it’s safe, delicious, and healthy! The chlorophyll in leafy greens are a terrific way to color your foods while making your favorite foods even more healthful,” stated Institute of Food Technologists spokeswoman Kantha Shelke, Ph.D., CFS, in a press release.

Another green drink method is to put bright blue curacao into a yellow base, such as pale orange juice.  It make a nearly neon green drink, according to a server at iconic Mary Mac’s Tea Room in Atlanta, describing a St. Patrick’s Day cocktail special.

Chicago dyes its river green with 45 pounds of vegetable dye dumped from flour sifters and frothed up by a motorboat. The effect lasts five hours, and is harmless. This year 400,000 people turned out to watch it on Saturday, March 14, according to ChooseChicago.com. 

Good Drinking, Bad Drinking

A spectator holds a cup of green beer as she tries to take a picture during a St. Patrick's Day parade,  in Savannah, Ga., on March, 16, 2013.  (AP Photo/Stephen Morton)
A spectator holds a cup of green beer as she tries to take a picture during a St. Patrick’s Day parade, in Savannah, Ga., on March, 16, 2013. (AP Photo/Stephen Morton)

There is also good drinking and bad drinking.

St. Patrick is not actually the patron saint of boozing it up.  

Stay safe. St. Patrick would want you to.

Enjoying a glass and a chat with a friend is good drinking. Downing enough to lose your inhibitions and your lunch is bad drinking, even if you only do it once a year. Because that one binge might be the one that leads to a humongous error in judgement, a fight, or an accident.