Can synthetic food coloring cause hyperactive behavior in children?
Over the next two days, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will be examining whether food dyes adversely impact children’s health. The Center for Science in the Public Interest, which filed the original petition to the FDA requesting a hearing, wants the agency to encourage companies to switch voluntarily to safer colorings and to require warning notices on products that contain synthetic food dyes.
As I previously reported in “Do food dyes cause hyperactivity:”
“The dyes are often used to enhance the appearance of sugary cereals, candies, sodas, fruit-flavored snacks, fast food and other products that are aimed at children and have little nutritional value, the CSPI said in a citizen's petition signed by 18 physicians and researchers. Since naturally derived alternatives exist, the continued use is hardly worth any potential risk, it said.
“What's the benefit? To make junk food even more appealing to children than it already is?” asked CSPI Executive Director Michael Jacobson.
Other experts say food dyes, which require pre-market approval, are among the most tightly regulated additives on the market and there's little evidence for the long-suspected link between food colors and hyperactivity.
“The (synthetic food dyes) used in the U.S. are absolutely safe,” said Joseph Borzelleca, a professor emeritus of pharmacology and toxicology at Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine. “Food colors are among the most thoroughly studied of the food ingredients.”
This morning, I received emails from the International Food Information Council (IFIC), which says the current food dyes in use are safe, and CSPI, which is urging strong FDA action.
In comments submitted to the FDA, the IFIC highlighted the “lack of sound scientific evidence that links food colors and hyperactivity.” The council also said the majority of Americans aren’t concerned about food coloring and that “communications that suggest a link” could unnecessarily frighten them. The council's full comments submitted to the FDA are available on a “Hot Topics: Food Colors” page on FoodInsight.org.
CSPI, however, cites European studies that found a link between the dyes and hyperactive behavior and is calling for change. “The evidence these petrochemicals worsen some children's behavior is convincing,” said Jacobson. “Having brightly colored Froot Loops, Skittles, Mountain Dews, or pickles or anything else just isn't worth putting any children at risk.”
Food coloring and hyperactivity: FDA holds hearing