Food Dyes Affect Kids Behaviors – Says Watchdog Group

Several news stories including a June 3, 2008 ABC News story reported that the consumer watchdog group, the “Center for Science in the Public Interest” (CSPI), has petitioned the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to ban artificial food coloring.  The group CSPI claims that Yellow 5, Red 40, and six other widely used artificial colorings are linked to hyperactivity and behavior problems in children and should be prohibited from use in foods.

A June 4, 2008 report in Medical News today notes that several of these food dyes have already been banned in the United Kingdom. Michael Jacobson, executive director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest in Washington, D.C states the CSPI case by stating, “I think it’s crystal clear the dyes affect kids’ behavior. The tougher questions are how many kids, and to what extent is their behavior affected? But time is long overdue to get rid of these dyes from the food supply. Let scientists study them in a laboratory.”

Dr David Schab, a psychiatrist at Columbia University Medical Center and one of the authors of a 2004 comprehensive review of the literature, published in the journal Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics, noted in the Medical News story, “The science shows that kids’ behavior improves when these artificial colorings are removed from their diets and worsens when they’re added to their diets. While not all children seem to be sensitive to these chemicals, it’s hard to justify their continued use in foods, especially those foods heavily marketed to young children.”

The FDA maintains that there is no evidence of a link.  The ABC News story noted that pressure from the British government on the food industry has caused food companies to make changes.  For instance in Britain, a strawberry sundae at a London McDonald’s contains real strawberries, whereas the U.S. sundae is red because of the dye Red #40. 

CSPI Executive Director Michael F Jacobson, summed up the petition to the FDA by stating, “The continued use of these unnecessary artificial dyes is the secret shame of the food industry and the regulators who watch over it.”  He added that these food dyes can be removed from the US food supply, “Absolutely, the dyes can be eliminated,” Jacobson said. “They’re unnecessary, they have no health benefits to the consumers whatsoever. They only pose a risk and that risk is intolerable.”