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Do Food Dyes Affect Children’s Behavior?

Studies suggest a link between artificial food coloring and hyperactive behavior in children.

Oct. 13, 2008

Almost every parent has a story about their kid bouncing off the walls after downing a package of jelly beans or eating a neon blue-frosted cupcake at school. Most blame the sugar.

But some new research suggests that the rainbow of artificial colors may have a bigger effect on children's behavior. And in other parts of the world, some organizations are starting to take action on these ingredients.
Earlier this year, the UK's Food Standards Agency asked food makers to voluntarily recall six artificial colors in food by 2009, a step many food companies have completed.

And in July, the European Parliament voted to add warning labels with the phrase "may have an adverse effect on activity and attention in children" to products with the same six synthetic red and yellow dyes, prompting many large food makers such as Nestle to reformulate their products rather than risk a drop-off in sales.

These actions were spurred by a study published in September 2007 supporting what some parents and scientists had suspected for decades -- that food dyes are linked to hyperactivity, even in kids who don't normally exhibit this behavior.

FDA's policy

The FDA still considers the nine synthetic colors allowed in food -- in grocery stores and restaurants-- as safe as long as each production batch has been certified to meet composition standards.

On its website the FDA says, concluded there was no "scientific evidence to support the claim that food dyes cause hyperactivity."

But watchdog groups and some scientists say that reference by the FDA is misleading. That same panel acknowledged that some children already diagnosed as hyperactive and on a restricted diet experienced an increase in hyperactivity when given moderate doses of artificial food dyes and did not experience similar increases after receiving a placebo.

Now the FDA is reviewing a petition submitted for a ban on eight artificial food colors certified for use in processed food; Blue 1, Blue 2, Green 3, Red 3, Red 40, Orange B, Yellow 6 and Yellow 5 (tartrazine), a color the FDA concluded in 1986 is a known allergen to a small group of people, causing itching and hives.

The center is also asking the FDA to require warning notices on the labels of foods that contain the dyes -- which are already listed on ingredient labels until the ban is in place and to require neurotoxicity tests for new food dyes and additives.

Going natural

Markham and other parents are willing to pay a premium for products that are natural. But to date, most large food makers have not reformulated their products.
If anything, U.S. manufacturers are putting more synthetic dyes than ever in their products geared to kids, such as Kraft's Lunchables line and Pepperidge Farm's Goldfish crackers in a rainbow of colors.

Food manufacturers say they use these colors to make foods more appealing to consumers. Yellow food coloring makes waffles look more evenly golden brown. Red or orange dye makes juice look sweeter.

However, food scientists say all of this can be achieved without using artificial colors.

Food makers "have the ability to do it, but they don't want to put any effort into it," says a food industry consultant and food scientist, who has helped companies reformulate their products with natural colors from plant sources such as beets or turmeric.

"It is more expensive. You have to use more (natural pigment) so it costs a little more, but if you say 'no artificial colors' on the box, you could charge a customer 10 cents more and they would pay it," he adds.
Source: By Melinda Fulmer, Special to The LA Times, Oct. 13, 2008

Dr. Iverson's Comment
Oohh! Just a little late for Halloween candies and Christmas cookies…but just in time for Valentines and Easter…don’t forget these wise words written above!
Bravo to the UK for stepping up to make a change for an epidemic that is screaming globally across industrialized nations! Yes, did I say industrialized? Yes I did! The reason being is that in all my travels to some of the poorest places on earth, not once did I hear of a mother complaining that her child is over-active, or lacks attention, or bounces around like a jumping bean! I also would hardly hear of symptoms relating to nervous system overload like anxiety, nervousness, or panic. Interestingly, I feel these are the adult versions of what the children are experiencing as overactive nervous systems. 
Why? Well, if it isn’t commonly seen in poorer countries, this system overload could be work-stress related. But is it really? Wouldn’t the stress of providing your next meal be more of a stress than your coworkers or boss?  I think so! 
 After returning from a trip to Panama last month, I was shown that the indigenous people of this tribe suffered from relatively few maladies. Aside from the jungle wear and tear, and diseases due to sanitation and mosquitoes, they were virtually well protected from what we typically see over here. The difference…well pretty obvious…they aren’t stuffing their face with artificial foods. They aren’t consuming foods laced with flavors, colors, and enhancers so we become absolutely addicted to them. They eat the food provided by the sea and the earth. Simple living = simple results= HEALTH.
Unfortunately Big Business often over-rides healthy principles. We all know that MONEY TALKS! Simply said, avoid chemical substitutes!! Follow Nature’s will not lead us astray! 
Be well!
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