Consumer group urges ban or warning on food dyes

SILVER SPRING, Maryland Wed Mar 30, 2011 3:06pm EDT


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SILVER SPRING, Maryland (Reuters) - The color dyes used to brighten cereals, snacks and drinks help make some children hyperactive and should be banned or at least carry a warning, critics told U.S. government advisers on Wednesday.

Artificial blue, green, orange, red and yellow food colorings show up in everything from PepsiCo's Gatorade, Cheetos and Doritos to Kellogg's Eggo waffles and Kraft's Jell-O desserts.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has long deemed the dyes safe but is reviewing recent studies of the colors' effects on children's behavior at the request of a consumer group. Gathering input from a panel of outside advisers is part of that review. The committee is expected to make recommendations on Thursday.

FDA staff reviewers said in a preliminary report that scientific research so far suggested some children with attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) may be affected by food coloring. The disorder affects up to 5 percent of U.S. children, according to government statistics.

"Why accept any impairment of kids' behavior whatsoever? Hyperactivity isn't just running around. It affects their ability to have friends, to study, to have a happy family life. Why impair that?" said Michael Jacobson, head of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, which is leading opposition to the dyes.

The committee of outside experts could urge a ban or warning, or it could suggest more studies if the advisers judge current evidence inadequate. The review itself has added weight to a decades-old consumer debate on whether parents should let their kids eat artificially colored foods.

In an interview before the panel meeting, Jacobson said he was not optimistic the FDA would ban the dyes. He said it would be easier for the agency to order a warning.

A ban or warning could impact major food manufacturers as well as Sensient Technologies Corp, a company that makes seven of the eight dyes the consumer group wants banned.

On Wednesday, a few experts on the FDA panel questioned the evidence cited by the dyes' opponents. Dr. Charles Voorhees noted most research tested a mixture of dyes rather than each color separately.

"Doesn't it strike you that we don't have enough information about the dyes individually?" asked Voorhees, a professor of pediatrics and environmental health at the University of Cincinnati.

Jacobson admitted shortcomings in the data but said there remained enough evidence to show the dyes were harmful. He said it was unclear what percentage of kids were affected but argued the uncertainties should not stop the government from acting.

Concerns about food dyes erupted in the 1970s when a pediatrician, Dr. Ben Feingold, claimed the colors were linked to hyperactive behavior and proposed a diet eliminating them.

The Grocery Manufacturers Association, which represents food producers and packagers, said in a statement "all of the major safety bodies globally have reviewed the available science and have determined that there is no demonstrable link between artificial colors and hyperactivity among children."

(Reporting by Lisa Richwine in Washington and Vaishnavi Bala in Bangalore, editing by Dave Zimmerman)

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Comments (3)
mahka813 wrote:
I read Dr. Feingold’s book 27 yrs. ago and tried the diet for my 6year old very hyperactive son, after about 2 weeks he became a different child , calm and agreeable and started to read and write .after that everytime he had a food that contained artificial dyes and flavors he became hyper and the dyslexia returned. so I recommend parents give it a try,but it sh/be strict since even small amout of the stuff will make them hyper, it is alergic reaction to salicylates.I have alot of respect for late Dr.Feingold, the book was called “why is your child hyperactive”

Mar 30, 2011 5:51pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
abbydelabbey wrote:
Years ago a friend of mine was having all sorts of problems and then began removing certain types of foods from his diet. He quickly realized one of the problems was the dye in foods. He gave up a lot of processed foods and his problems abated.

Mar 30, 2011 9:33pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
clickclack wrote:
We need all dyes banned period from our food source, food should be food. There is no reason to add seomthing that is not needed. We also need to ban all chemically derived scents in room fresheners, perfumes, cleaning products, candles etc they are extremely carcinogenic. There is no reason that these things should be on the market other than heavy lobbyists in Washington. There is no warning on any of the labels either. If cigarette smoke is banned then all of these chemically derived scents should be banned as well. I personally do not want to be exposed to them and they are everywhere. I want clean food, no dyes, no antibiotics, etc and clean air.

Mar 30, 2011 9:49pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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