The first I heard of the ill effects of artificial food dyes was several years ago when I was visiting a prospective school to send my son to for kindergarten. The program director was discussing the issue of behavior problems and the link to red dyes. A light bulb went on in my head then. Although I wouldn’t really classify my son as having a “behavior problem”, he was excitable and full of energy much of the time. I could immediately list in my head about 3 sources of artificial red dye in his diet. Starting then, I avoided giving him foods with these artificial colors. And, yes, I noticed a change in behavior.
Anecdotal? Some would say yes, but an independent science-based organization, the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) issued a press release, June 29, 2010 stating that food dyes pose health risks to the public, including hyperactivity, cancer, and allergic reactions. These issues are discussed in a new report by CSPI, “Food Dyes: A Rainbow of Risks.” The group also issued a letter to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) yesterday urging them to ban all dyes due to a lack of scientific evidence supporting their safety in comparison to the amount of research indicating their hazardous effects.
Which dyes are linked to posing health threats and what are these potential risks according to CSPI?*
- Red 40, Yellow 5, and Yellow 6: contaminated with carcinogens
- Red 3: known carcinogen
- Blue 1, Red 40, Yellow 5, and Yellow 6: trigger allergic reactions
*For a more thorough list of implicated food dyes and a discussion of their ill effects please refer to CSPI’s report, “Food Dyes: A Rainbow of Risks.”
In their report, CSPI does acknowledge that the FDA regulations for food dyes are stricter than those for other food additives, but the group would like to see better enforcement of these rules. James Huff, the associate director for chemical carcinogenesis at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences’ National Toxicology Program is quoted in CSPI’s news release as saying “Dyes add no benefits whatsoever to foods, other than making them more ‘eye-catching’ to increase sales. CSPI’s scientifically detailed report on possible health effects of food dyes raises many questions about their safety. Some dyes have caused cancers in animals, contain cancer-causing contaminants, or have been inadequately tested for cancer or other problems. Their continued use presents unnecessary risks to humans, especially young children. It’s disappointing that the FDA has not addressed the toxic threat posed by food dyes.”
Further illustrating the need for concern regarding possible health risks associated with artificial food dyes, CSPI notes that the Brittish government asked its food manufacturing companies to phase out dyes by December of last year. There are natural replacements for dyes, such as beet juice, blueberry juice concentrate, carrot juice, etc., that can be used instead, according to CSPI.
What do you think? Should the FDA ban artificial food dyes? Share with us, we want to know!