Now on to the actual point of this article. The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) has been studying the affects of artificial colorings in food and has finally asked the FDA to begin looking into the possibility of banning several artificial dyes such as FD&C Blue 1 and 2; FD&C Green 3, Orange B, FD&C Red 3, FD&C Red 40, FD&C Yellow 5 and 6. The reasoning behind this ban is that they have conducted studies that have shown that the artificial colors are causing hyperactivity and behavior problems in children. Considering the number of snack items (and practically everything else edible) that contain artificial coloring, this is clearly a problem.
The FDA has promised to convene their Food Advisory Committee on March 30-31, 2011 to discuss whether “available relevant data demonstrate a link between children's consumption of synthetic color additives in food and adverse effects on behavior.”
According to the ABC News article Food Dyes May ExacerbateHyperactivity in Sensitive Children, “The man-made dyes haven't been proven to cause hyperactivity in most children, nor has research found the dyes to contain "any inherent neurotoxic properties," according to a U.S. Food and Drug Administration staff memo filed after the Center for Science in the Public Interest petitioned the agency to revoke approvals for eight certified colorings."
As far as hyperactivity goes I cannot judge, but I'm calling bullshit on the no "inherent neurotoxic properties" line. Food coloring with no neurotoxic properties don't generally cause a person who ingests too much of it ("too much" being a snack sized back of hot cheetos, liberally coated in Red Dye #40) to curl up in the fetal position with a horrible migraine and end up puking up all the food they ate that day and that's what it does to me. I have to check labels religiously, which makes finding snacks at a gas station during a road trip a long and arduous task. I also have an allergy to Red Dye #6, which is liberally used in cosmetics and lip balm. If I use a lip balm with that coloring and lick my lips even a few times I end up in excruciating pain.
I'm not the only one either. Red Dye #40 is a fairly common allergen for people, so much so that it has been banned in several countries, including Sweden, Norway and Japan. It can present in many other ways than the one I described. From what I've read the responses can be hives, inability to breathe, rash, stuffy noses, hyperactivity and tearing of the eyes. And good luck avoiding the cause of these reactions, Red Dye #40 is in EVERYTHING, even things that have no need for it. White cake mix, chocolate cupcakes from bakeries, Oreo Cakesters, donuts and cookies and crackers and juice and many many other places where the color red isn't necessary at all. It's almost like the manufacturers figure it's so cheap they can dump it in anywhere they want.
Most ridiculously of all is that red, pink, yellow and orange (the colors most commonly made from this dye type) are easily reproduced naturally using beet and carrot juice. Candy from Sweden, Norway and Japan all use it instead and the flavor and consistency are not changed. However it is slightly more expensive for manufacturers and so they screw us over anyway and I'm sick of it.
The FDA needs to do something about this.
But, considering the FDA's underwhelming response to other poisonous dyes, such as this one.
"In 1990, the FDA banned Red No. 3 in cosmetics, medicines and some other products because it was linked to cancer in mice but permitted its continued use in foods."*
I'm not really prepared to believe I'll have to stop reading labels for artificial dyes until I'm too old for it to really matter anymore.