Making healthy babies and keeping them healthy, happy … and safe.

Food coloring linked to hyperactivity, says advocacy group

Posted by NonToxic House on June 4, 2008

Fruit Roll-ups get their ‘fruity’ colors from Yellow 5, Yellow 6, Red 40 and Blue 1 – artifical food colorings. The ‘blueberries’ in Aunt Jemima waffles are blue because they contain a mix of Red 40 and Blue 2. And Kraft’s guacamole dip is green, but not from avocados – from a combination of Yellow 5, Yellow 6 and Blue 1. 

Surprised? Probably not – most of us are aware that uber-bright or unnatural colors are likely a foil for food coloring. Though, we also likely figured these artificial dyes plenty safe to consume, since they’re everywhere – in literally thousands of foods, vitamins and other products on store shelves.

But, today, the Center for Science in the Public Interest petitioned the FDA to ban these artificial dyes, saying they’re linked to hyperactivity and ADHD (Yellow 5, Yellow 6, Red 40, Red 3, Blue 1, Blue 2, Green 3, Orange B are the artificial colorings currently in use). And while the CSPI was clear to say these dyes are not the sole cause of hyperactive behaviors, and that not all kids are sensitive to them, it, nonetheless, asked the FDA to ban them in all foods and, until then, to require prominent labeling of their use.

Research findings have varied over the years about the link between food colors and hyperactivity. The issue first garnered awareness in the 1970s when Dr. Ben Feingold developed a diet therapy that reduced symptoms of hyperactivity by eliminating artifical dyes, flavorings and other additives from kids’ diets.

But, as recent as November 2007, a UK study published in the Lancet did reveal a connection, finding that :

Artificial colours or a sodium benzoate preservative (or both) in the diet result in increased hyperactivity in 3-year-old and 8/9-year-old children in the general population.

That Lancet study has spurred doctors in the UK to warn parents to limit their kids’ intake of such foods, and the UK’s FDA counterpart – the Food Standards Agency – to recommend that food manufacturers stop using certain artificial dyes by 2009. Companies like Kraft and Mars have already changed out the articifical colors in some products sold in the UK but – this is important – NOT for the same products sold in the United States (Food marketers will say it’s a matter of consumer demand, but I say what a croc!)!

My take? It’s not critical enough to overreact about the random cupcake or bag of jelly beans, but start looking for artificial colorings on those food labels and start making the transition – particularly if you are in baby-making mode or if you have a child with a hyperactivitiy concern. 

Today’s news is just one more reason to become more self-reliant and aware, and to minimize junk food and choose natural, minimally processed foods. Here’s a list of foods and household products that conform to the “Feingold diet” and, also, a PDF parents’ guide to ADHD, diet and behavior developed by CSPI.

[Photo: Getty images]


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