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.