As of Tuesday in the European Union, most foods containing artificial food dyes are required to sport a warning label. These labels declare that the labeled food, “may have an adverse effect on activity and attention in children.”

fruit-bar-featured.jpgFood Safety News reported on a study released by the Center For Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) earlier this month that detailed the risks associated with popular food dyes. These dyes are more common in the United States than Europe, and CSPI hopes that EU action to protect consumers will encourage the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to take action.

Synthetic dyes have been suspected of triggering behavioral problems in children since the early 1970s, and recent research has strengthened the link. 

“At this point, American food manufacturers and regulators alike should be embarrassed that we’re feeding kids foods with chemicals that have such a powerfully disruptive impact on children’s behavior,” said CSPI executive director Michael F. Jacobson.  “European officials are taking the issue much more seriously, and are moving toward a safer food supply as a result.” 

A CSPI news release quoted House Representative Louise Slaughter, Chairman of the House Rules Committee and the only microbiologist serving in Congress as saying, “This is a sensible policy and a smart move to help protect the health and well being of children in Europe.”

“For too long, studies have raised questions about the impact food dyes are having on the development of children and the possible link between dyes and behavior. I have been troubled by the lack of solid data on this issue for more than a decade. It is my hope that the Food and Drug Administration reviews the abundance of science on this issue and considers implementing a similar restriction or outright ban,” Slaughter continued.

Many consumer activist groups are calling on the FDA to carry out their own tests on the controversial dyes, especially in the wake of new evidence that they might be linked to certain types of cancer.

Food dyes are cheaper to use than natural colorings. As a result many companies use synthetic, petroleum-based dyes in products sold in the United States while substituting natural coloring in Europe.

In Britain, Fanta orange soda is dyed with pumpkin and carrot extract while the U.S. version is dyed with Red 40 and Yellow 6. Kellogg Strawberry NutriGrain bars are colored with Red 40, Yellow 6 and Blue 1 in the U.S., but with beetroot, annatto and paprika extract in the UK. McDonald’s Strawberry Sundaes are colored with strawberries in Britain but with Red dye 40 in America.

Australian officials are also considering a ban on harmful food dyes in products sold within the country’s borders.

  • Pablo Zaltz

    It’s very disappointing to read that you continues to cite CSPI’s report despite it poor scientific level, the lack of objetive data to support their conclusions and the extreme anti-food_additives position of their speech.
    Usually, FSN have well balanced articles and the use of biased references was not common in the past. Are you changing your editorial style to include pseudo-science opinions?

  • Ron Smith

    It would be nice if this article include some actual facts regarding food dyes instead of rank speculation from folks with a definite bias against food dyes. A scientific study that provides actual data that supports the notion that food dyes are harmful would be nice. Just so the writer knows every scientific study raises “questions”. What we are interested in are the answers studies give us, “questions” reveal nothing useful. Until these dye haters have some useful data to relate they should be ignored.

  • Anny

    There are plenty of studies actually STRENTHENING the link. Question is more what American consumers hear and get to read, with the media and universities and studies in this country being financed and sponsored by Big American Corporate. The British University of Southampton published a study in 2007 that showed increased problems in children consuming food dyes and benzoic acid Though small and more studies are in the works in Europe, first of all it was not the first study showing this link, and secondly most American moms are definitely not willing to sacrifice their own kids to America’s food company’s big field study on American children. Also, please, why are 10 times as many American kids diagnosed with ADHD than for example German kids? Why are cancer rates so much higher here than in Europe? It is NOT the “better diagnosis” or something similar in this country with its rotten health care system, trust me…. it is just a FACT that kids here are irresponsibly exposed to a lot of stuff that simply does not go into the mouth of an average European kid. As a mom, I don’t find this biased, but responsible, and it is irresponsible subjecting American kids to toxins and chemicals the way it happens here.

  • Steve

    I cannot believe the two negative comments that this web page starts with!
    We are talking about the welfare of our children here!
    The study by Prof Jim Stevenson at Southampton University in England completed in 2007 is sound.
    I had my own “clinical trial” in the form of my son, with whom I monitored his reaction to artificial food colour and sodium benzoate preservative all his young life. My findings were that he had extreem adverse reactions, when he had ingested anything containing these additives. When they were removed from his diet, he became calm and attentive. My child would have been labelled ADHD if I had not read Dr Feingold’s original findings on these additives when my son was only four.
    Dr Stevenson’s report actually supports and strengthens these findings.
    We just could not believe that at that time nothing was being done about these additives, and have watched companies add them to just about everything that children now consume.
    Stop defending these additives as there are now millions of children who are diagnosed with hyperactivity disorders every year. Get on board, and get back to good old natural food.
    Please take these findings very seriously, and lets be rid of these additives once and for all.