Visit any candy or cereal aisle in a grocery store, and you will be accosted with a rainbow of colors. Designed to make food more appealing, artificial food dyes have been used since 1856.1)https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Food_coloring. From the beginning, there have been concerns about health issues related to artificial food dyes, including death. Although we may not fear mortality from modern food dyes, we still should avoid them.
Why you should avoid foods with artificial food dyes
There is a host of health issues related to synthetic colorings in our food specifically around attention and behavior. As a classroom and preschool teacher, I have observed first-hand the effects of artificial food dyes on children. The students who do not consume synthetic food dyes were calmer, ready to learn, and better able to control their behavior in and out of the classroom. In fact, my advice to any parent whose child is struggling with attention and behavior issues is to first look at diet and eliminate artificial food dyes.
There are many scholarly articles that find evidence linking artificial food dyes and hyperactivity in children. Concerns were first raised in the 1970s by Dr. Benjamin Feingold. He found:
Concerns about the negative behavioral effects of artificial food additives and dyes were first expressed in the early 1970s by Dr Benjamin Feingold, a pediatric allergist. He hypothesized that the reported increase in prevalence of ADHD was related to the increased use of artificial flavors and colors in the American diet.40,41 To test his hypothesis, Feingold treated hyperactive children with a diet that eliminated artificial food additives and dyes. Also, as some children who had an allergic reaction to yellow food dye reacted negatively to acetylsalicylic acid (aspirin), fruits and vegetables containing natural salicylates (e.g., apples, apricots, raisin, cucumbers, green peppers, and tomatoes) were also removed from the diet. Feingold reported that over 50% of children responded positively to his elimination diet. Feingold stressed the importance of the following for ensuring the best results: 1) adherence to the diet is obligatory, 2) successful treatment requires that the subject’s entire family participate in the diet, and 3) an individual sensitive to food additives must avoid them for life.40,412)https://nutritionreviews.oxfordjournals.org/content/69/7/385.full
A study conducted 36 years ago published in Science discovered:
Forty children were given a diet free of artificial food dyes and other additives for 5 days. Twenty of the children had been classified as hyperactive by scores on the Conners Rating Scale and were reported to have favorable responses to stimulant medication. A diagnosis of hyperactivity had been rejected in the other 20 children. Oral challenges with large doses (100 or 150 milligrams) of a blend of FD & C approved food dyes or placebo were administered on days 4 and 5 of the experiment. The performance of the hyperactive children on paired-associate learning tests on the day they received the dye blend was impaired relative to their performance after they received the placebo, but the performance of the nonhyperactive group was not affected by the challenge with the food dye blend.3)http://science.sciencemag.org/content/207/4438/1485
Just think what happens when a child eats colored cereal for breakfast then goes to school!
Synthetic dyes are used only for aesthetic reasons to make food seem more colorful and fun. There is no other reason. Companies even think our dog treats need to be colorful, which is so ridiculous considering dogs can’t see color well. I was surprised when I bought dog treats in Italy; they were without artificial food dyes. If Italian dogs deserve treats without these harmful ingredients, so do American children.
The Oxford Journal explains why the food industry prefers artificial dyes to natural ones:
Coloring agents are added to foods for a variety of reasons including the following: enhance natural colors; decrease color loss due to exposure to air, light, moisture, and extreme temperatures; correct natural variations in color; make food more attractive to the consumer; and provide color to colorless and “fun” foods.36 Both natural and synthetic products are used as food colors. Natural colors are derived from grapes, saffron, paprika, grapes, carrots, beets, and algae, and are used to color a variety of foods.36However, synthetic dyes are largely preferred by the food industry because they provide superior intensity and uniformity of color, are less expensive, more stable, and blend more easily with foods to produce an array of colors.38 At present, nine synthetic food dyes are approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Over the past 50 years, daily per capita intake of these dyes has increased fivefold38,39 in parallel with the rise in intake of processed foods including baked goods, breakfast cereals, snack foods, and soft drinks,4)https://nutritionreviews.oxfordjournals.org/content/69/7/385.full
Researchers caution that simply removing artificial food dyes from children’s diet is not a “panacea for the treatment of ADHD”; however, it can’t hurt.5)https://nutritionreviews.oxfordjournals.org/content/69/7/385.full
The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) has been leading the fight to eliminate artificial food dyes from human food since 2008. 6)http://ecochildsplay.com/2008/06/04/center-for-science-in-the-public-interest-wants-the-fda-to-ban-artificial-food-coloring/ In January of this year, CSPI petitioned the US Food and Drug Administration to ban artificial food coloring in food and drink all together. Inquisitr explains:
The experts point out that the British government and the European Union have taken aggressive action against the use of synthetic food dyes, which have virtually ended the consumption of the artificial colors throughout all of Europe. The petition claims there is important new research since the FDA last met to consider their safety in 2011…
The petition to the FDA cited a meta-analysis concluded that removing artificial food coloring could almost eliminate ADHD symptoms in one-third of diagnosed children, a review of three meta-analyses which concluded that the elimination of food dyes is a valid treatment for ADHD for some children, and many other very strong peer-reviewed studies…In the letter to Dr. Stephen Ostroff, Acting Commissioner of the FDA, the physicians and researchers affirm that each has expertise in toxicology and/or behavioral problems in children and request “timely federal action on this important issue.” They cite studies by the Food Standards Agency of the British government which have concluded that adverse behavioral effects from artificial food coloring are seen “not just in children with extreme hyperactivity, but can also be seen in the general population and across the range of severities of hyperactivity.”7)Read more at http://www.inquisitr.com/2753518/synthetic-food-dye-does-not-meet-fda-safety-standards-cspi-doctors-and-scientists-assert/#Lm0Y4UDKxHuFx0LL.99
In response to a petition from CPSI, Mars Incorporated is removing artificial food dyes from their products!
Mars, the candy maker behind M&Ms, has announced it will remove all artificial food dyes like yellow 5 and Red 40 from its “human food portfolio”. 8)http://cspinet.org/new/201602051.html
I can’t remember the last time I ate and M&M. When I was a child, my mother would make cookies using M&Ms instead of chocolate chips. I loved them! I gave them up around the time I became a healthy eater skipping foods made with non-food stuff like artificial food dyes. I’m not sure my children ever have M&Ms only the natural version.
Mars, Inc.’s bold action, announced today, that it will get synthetic food dyes out of its entire human food portfolio is a huge advance for parents and children and should serve as a powerful incentive for the rest of the food industry to follow suit. We appreciate the fact that Mars listened to our concerns and to the concerns of its customers and that it is exercising this kind of responsible leadership.
The Food and Drug Administration should level the playing field for the whole industry by banning Yellow 5, Red 40, and other synthetic dyes used in food. There is simply too much evidence demonstrating that these artificial dyes trigger inattention, hyperactivity, and other behavioral reactions in children. The use of these neurotoxic chemicals to provide a purely cosmetic function in foods, particularly foods designed to appeal to children, must stop.
The official word from Mars is the change is in response to “customer preference” not health issues.
Artificial colors pose no known risks to human health or safety, but consumers today are calling on food manufacturers to use more natural ingredients in their products. Against this backdrop, Mars will work closely with its suppliers to find alternatives that not only meet the its strict quality and safety standards, but also maintain the vibrant, fun colors consumers have come to expect from the company’s beloved brands.
“We’re in the business of satisfying and delighting the people who love our products,” said Grant F. Reid, President and CEO of Mars, Incorporated. “Eliminating all artificial colors from our human food portfolio is a massive undertaking, and one that will take time and hard work to accomplish. Our consumers are the boss and we hear them. If it’s the right thing to do for them, it’s the right thing to do for Mars.”9)http://www.mars.com/global/press-center/press-list/news-releases.aspx?SiteId=94&Id=6984
Sunspire has long offered naturally colored candy similar to M&Ms. The company uses beet juice, natural caramel and beta-carotene to color the candies.
I will continue to support companies like Sunspire who have been natural from the get-go. I am thankful Mars is making the shift no matter their motives or inability to admit that artificial food dyes do pose human health risks. I hope other major corporations follow suit. The elimination of artificial food dyes by Mars will reach a great number of children and represents a shift in consumer preferences in the United States.
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