Fake Food Color Linked to ADHD

The consumer watchdog group Center for Science in the Public Interest wants to ban all artificial color from foods. At the very least the organization wants the Food and Drug Administration to put warning labels on foods containing some dyes, like Yellow 5 and Red 40, which have been linked to Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder in children already prone to it.

CSPI executive director Michael Jacobsen says, “Getting rid of food dyes is not going to solve the hyperactivity or attention deficit disorder problem. But it would reduce the problem.”

Advisors to the FDA met this week in a meeting to discuss the science behind artificial colors in food and whether they lead to hyperactivity in children. At the end of the two-day meeting, the FDA decided not to require labels on foods containing artificial colors.

FDA advisers examined how the problem was reduced when Great Britain banned several artificial colors. Most companies did. Strawberry bars purchased in the U.K. are made with paprika extract for color. In the U.S. the same product is made with Red 40.

The Grocery Manufacturers of America issued a statement saying there’s no clear link between artificial food colors and hyperactivity among children, and that “we are always producing the safest possible product for our consumers.”

Experts say the use of artificial colors in the U.S. has increased by half in the past 20 years, and a fresh look at their effect is overdue. Georgetown University’s Dr. Laura Anderko says, “The regulation hasn’t kept up with our consuming habits.”

Frito-Lay recently announced it will switch to using natural colors like beets and carrots in half of its snacks by the end of the year. The FDA advisers recommended further study of the link between artificial food coloring and ADHD but voted 8 to 6 against putting warning labels on food products.

The FDA is not required to follow the recommendations of this panel of advisers but it often does.

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