The Food and Drug Administration is changing their tune about artificial food dyes. For decades the FDA defended food colorings, saying they’re perfectly safe, but now, for the first time, they’re considering changing their policies on brightly dyed foods. Why the sudden change of heart? Well, a number of studies have linked the dyes to hyperactivity and behavioral problems in children. The FDA’s own scientists even concluded that, although food dyes may not cause problems for every child, they can make kids who already have behavioral issues worse.
This is a huge victory for consumer advocates. For years they’ve been pushing the government to force the manufacturers to label them as potentially harmful to children, and now that could happen. The FDA just put together a panel of experts. Their job is to review the studies and decide whether or not to require a warning label on foods that contain dyes. This isn’t the first time food dyes have come under fire. More than a century ago some food dyes were banned because they were not only toxic, but food makers were using the dye to hide the fact that their food was rotten and moldy. Then, in the '50s a bunch of kids got sick after eating candy that was dyed with Orange number 1. The dye turned out to be toxic and was later banned. Same thing happened with Red number 2 in the seventies. That one was found to be potentially cancer-causing!
Still, don’t expect bans anytime soon. The feds are looking at the behavioral changes possibly caused by dyes kind of like a peanut allergy: something that affects some children but doesn’t mean the products should be yanked off the market. Some grocery chains, like Trader Joes and Whole Foods, refuse to stock products that contain these dyes. If you’re worried about it, or have a child with behavioral problems, you could eliminate food dyes from their diet and see if it helps. One mom in New Jersey that we read about tried it and said it worked wonders for her son. However, some pediatricians say dietary changes won’t have any effect on a kid who’s acting out. They say you’d be better off consulting a behavioral therapist.