OK to add food coloring to insulin?

I have a question for any docotors/medical personnel:

I use an Animas One Touch Ping insulin pump. About once every week or two, I have a day of unexplained high blood glucose (250-450 range). I am very careful to accurately count carbs and dose accordingly, but sometimes my BG just keeps creeping up and up despite 2, 3, or 4 doses beyond what's needed to cover a meal. This also often happens 4-8 hours after a meal, so I can't blame it on anything I've eaten.

I have my occlusion sensitivity set to High, and so far have never received an occlusion warning. I understand that air bubbles in the tubing or in the cartridge might be the cause of my problems. However, I hesitate to remove the cartridge because I don't want to go through the whole rewind/reload business, and I find it very hard to see into the plastic tubing.

So, I am wondering if it would be harmful to ME or to my (Novolog) INSULIN to add a drop of food coloring when I fill my next cartridge. That way, it would be much easier to see any air bubbles. Does anyone know if this is safe? Thanks.

Amy at diabetesmine blogged about this, mostly to avoid confusion between different types of insulin (http://www.diabetesmine.com/2009/05/a-call-to-pharma-colored-insulin-would-help.html). I would have to caution you that adding food safe coloring to insulin is probably not a good idea. Food safe means that it is safe to eat, not that it is safe to inject. And you have no idea what the food coloring will do to the insulin, it might destroy the insulin, it might cause precipitation and clogging or it may even fail disrupt the sterility (food coloring is not sterile).

As an intellectual exercise, probably interesting, but please don’t try it.

yeah, put this on the “do not do” list

Please don’t do that.

I wouldn’t chance what dye could possibly do to insulin, your tubing & your body.

Coloring in itself is chemical…we do not know how it can affect insulin when it interacts with it. It is best not to do it.


Finding the air bubbles when you are looking at a clear liquid through clear tubing can be really tough. Sometimes I really have to play around with the angle of the tubing to the light and the background to see them. Once, I had my wife hold a small flashlight to the side if the tubing with the lights off and found a pretty big bubble.

Another thought, do you find any correlation between the highs and the age of the insulin and/or infusion set (obvious, I know - sorry!)?

Fair Winds,

Thanks, Mike. I just experienced an unexplained high day two days ago and was using a new bottle of insulin. As far as age of the infusion set, they are shipped to me every three months, but who knows how long they’ve been sitting in a warehouse somewhere…?

Do you ever find that the unexplained high episode comes during the “middle” of a cartridge with reasonable BGs before and after the episode? That’s what makes me suspect a bubble…

So what do all of you do when you find a bubble? Can you disconnect and give boluses until the bubble is forced out?

The best person to ask would probably be a pharamacist.

try letting the vial of insulin warm to room temperature before filling your cartridge. if nothing else, make sure the cartridge is at least room temperature before trying to prime - keep it in your pocket for 5-10 minutes, or hold it in your fist for a minute or 2. this lets the insulin warm up a bit, and any air bubbles will then go to the top of the reservoir, and you can then prime them out. if you don’t let it warm first, the air bubbles will pool at the top after you’ve primed, and then get “stuck” in the tubing


On the infusion set age, I meant how long since you last changed the set? Sorry I wasn’t clear (hope I did better this time).

When I find a bubble I either prime it out or bolus it out depending on wherre it is in the tubing. Of course, I disconnect the tubing from the infusion set first!

One other “trick” I like is to position the pump so the bubbles are at the bottom of the reservoir (so they don’t get into the tubing).

Fair Winds,