According to two articles found in the the Washington Post on March 30th and April 1st, federal regulators are questioning the rising use of artificial dyes that are permeating most of the food products sold in this country. This concern recently led to a two-day meeting by an advisory panel selected by the FDA to discuss whether the use of food dyes should be restricted.
FDA Panel Concludes that Food Dye Warnings are Not Necessary
On March 1st, the panel concluded that they could not find enough evidence to link the proliferation of chemical dyes found in food to hyperactivity, and therefore it didn’t recommend applying warning labels to food products that sometimes contain as much as nine different dyes. They also concluded that warning labels on food packages weren’t necessary.
From bright yellow cheese to deep red fruit punch to that juicy pink hamburger – and even to some brands of dog food – the use of artificial dyes has risen by 50 percent since 1990. Meanwhile, about 5 percent of all children in the U.S. suffer from attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, which is steadily becoming a serious health problem and negatively impacts the ability to concentrate in the classroom.
The FDA did, however, acknowledge that some studies done on the link between food chemicals and hyperactivity indicated that the dyes could exacerbate the disorder.
The government has allowed food makers to use nine dyes and most of them have been in use for 80 years. Once they were manufactured from coal tar. Now they’re made from petroleum. Foodmakers favor them over the natural dyes found in fruits and vegetables because they’re more appealing to the eye, and are more stable and less expensive. Their colors also don’t fade as quickly as natural dyes do.
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Europe has stricter food safety standards than the U.S, with Britain being one example. Because of its concern about the link between six food dyes and hyperactivity in children, the European parliament requires warning labels placed on packages, which have any of the six dyes contained in the food product.
According to the Post, some U.S. companies such Kellogg’s and Mars International have already complied with Europe’s requirement because they don’t want the warning labels placed on their food products.
Since food dyes serve no functional purpose except to make the food appear more appealing, it’s only an issue because consumers have for so long been accustomed to expecting foods to look fresh and appetizing.
On the other hand, U.S. food manufacturers maintain that the FDA requires all the dyes contained in the food product be listed on the ingredient panel of the package. The Post quotes the Grocery Manufacturers Association as stating that all of the global major safety bodies have reviewed the available scientific information and no demonstrable link has been discovered between hyperactivity and food dyes.
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At this point, no warning labels will be placed on the labels of foods containing dyes. Wary parents and cautious consumers will need to continue to closely inspect food labels and determine for themselves whether or not to buy that brightly-hued food item.