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Food Dyes and Children

In March of 2011, the US Food and Drug Administration (F.D.A.) finally decided to call for a committee to examine the many recent studies looking at the link between synthetic food dyes and colors (FD&C) and behavior problems in children, such as ADD and ADHD.

Most commercial food dyes that you’ll find in almost every commercially-sold processed food are made from petroleum and were approved by the F.D.A. in 1931, according to the New York Times.

While the FDA and indeed, the mainstream American medical community, might debate the effects of food dyes on children’s behavior and the public health in general, the Europeans already require warning labels on products containing food dyes. And guess what happened when they did that? American food companies like Kellog’s, Kraft, and General Mills stopped adding food dyes to their products to be sold in Europe.

The FDA’s website page on food dyes proudly displays that it was last updated in April, 2010. I guess that means the scientific committee convened 15 months ago, in 2011, to look at the safety of widespread use of FD&C in our national food supply has yet to come to any new conclusions.

I guess we’ll have to keep waiting and watching with bated breath to see whether the FDA will buck industries that believe adding food dyes to their products make them irresistible to us, the consumers who have been raised to expect brightly colored foods from cakes to cereals to yogurts, ice creams, candies, medicines, and even pickles. Once you start reading labels, you’ll find food dyes lurking where you least expect them and in so many kinds of foods.

In our house, we’re well familiar with the effects of even the smallest trace of red food dye, like the swirl on the white circle of a Starlight mint. The last time a well-meaning relative slipped my son a one of these harmless-seeming candies, he was vomiting up a complete dinner in the restaurant bathroom 20 minutes later.

One Comment on “Food Dyes and Children

  1. Thank you for this article. I plan to post it on my Yahoo group: Feingold Program 4 Us. Parents love to have something to pass on to friends and family.

    Are you aware of the Feingold Program and the Feingold Association? Dr. Ben F. Feingold popularized the link between diet and behavior and parents formed the support organization in 1976. It continues Dr. Feingold’s work. The website is I’m sure your readers would love to know that we exist!

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