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Food-dye news every skeptic should read

Regular Spoonfed readers know that artificial colors infuriate me like no other food additive. They’re useless except to mask overprocessing and missing nutrients. They’ve been linked time and again to both behavioral and health issues. Food manufacturers use them solely to trick and manipulate. There’s not one legitimate reason to allow them in our food supply.

So I hope you’ll bear with me as I offer one more food-dyes post in advance of this week’s FDA hearings (March 30-31), which will examine the connection between petrochemical dyes and children’s behavior. Two excellent articles just hit the web, and I think they provide some great information and perspective, particularly for people in your life who might not get what all the fuss is about:

The rainbow of food dyes in our grocery aisles has a dark side
This Washington Post op-ed details the history of food dyes, their dangerous effects and the many ways in which the United States lags other countries in addressing the issue. It’s written by David Schab, a Columbia University psychiatry professor who has studied the link between food dyes and hyperactivity, and Michael Jacobson, executive director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, one of the organizations that pushed strongly for this week’s FDA hearings. “Allowing the use of artificial dyes violates the FDA’s mandate to protect consumers from unsafe products. It also runs afoul of the agency’s mandate to crack down on food that has been made ‘to appear better or of greater value than it is.'” (Also worth reading from the WaPo: this article on food-industry justifications and how artificial colors have “distorted the American concept of what a food looks like.”)

Serving up food dyes, UK style
A fascinating blog post by “The Unhealthy Truth” author Robyn O’Brien (whose inspiring TEDx talk I just shared). Robyn explores why American food companies like Kraft and Walmart have stopped using artificial colors and other additives (like preservatives and artificial sweeteners) in the food they sell overseas, but not here at home. “We’re not asking them to reinvent the wheel — they’ve already removed these ingredients from their products elsewhere.  So why can’t our children get the same protection?  Why can’t they serve up the same products to us?”

Finally, if you haven’t already, please consider signing this petition from the makers of the movie “Fresh.” Add your signature, comment, personal story, sheer and simple outrage, whatever. Organizers will deliver a link to the FDA.

More on artificial colors from the Spoonfed archives:

Dyeing to know: Easter egg science lesson (April 2, 2010)
Food-dye research. Artificial colors in the United States vs. overseas. And using natural egg dyes as a lesson in fake vs. real.

Color me annoyed (April 9, 2010)
Green popsicles and blue ice cream underscore the prevalence of food dyes in school and summer camp.

The color of trouble (January 22, 2011)
A comprehensive overview of food dyes and the problems they cause, with a bonus farewell to neon birthday cake. Also a great discussion in the comments about natural dye alternatives. (And, incidentally, the most-shared Spoonfed post to date.) An excerpt:

“Artificial colors are the charlatans of food additives: enticing, seemingly harmless… then wham. Linked to long-term health problems, these petroleum-derived chemicals often have immediate and devastating effects on children’s behavior and ability to learn. And unlike when we were kids (and our parents were kids), artificial colors are in everything, from food to toothpaste to medicine, even things that are white or look natural (check your pickles and “blueberries” ). Since 1955, that’s added up to a five-fold increase in dye consumption.”

Reclaiming of the green (and tell the FDA “no dyes”) (March 21, 2011)
Last week’s post-St. Patrick’s Day piece, in which I rally for reclaiming green as a natural color.

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{ 5 comments… add one }

  • Au Coeur March 27, 2011, 8:36 pm

    I meant to comment on your last week but, never got around to it. I get the appeal of holiday-colored food…it feels fun and festive, but I’m with you on the artificial dyes. There are so many ways to make holiday-colored food without red #40 and green #whatever. Last week, we ate green eggs (scrambled with pureed kale) and green spaghetti (pesto) on St. Patrick’s Day. For Valentines day, we ate a beautiful and delicious soup (http://aucoeur.wordpress.com/recipes/rosemary-red-soup/) that no one would even know had beets in it, aside from the brilliant red color. For Halloween, there’s squash and carrots and black lentils…you get the picture (and I’m sure I’m preaching to the choir).

    It seems like there’s small steps being made, and hopefully the FDA hearings will go somewhere. But, it’s probably going to take a long, long time to make a difference, since most Americans are conditioned to expect certain foods to be a certain color – even when it doesn’t make sense. I bought the Stoneyfield “Banilla” yogurt once on accident and was shocked to find it colored yellow (with turmeric). Why? Bananas aren’t yellow. Cheese is another one I just don’t get. We never buy yellow cheese (or yellow “cheese” products), yet so many Americans think cheddar is supposed to be yellow. I really don’t understand it.

  • Jennifer Margulis March 30, 2011, 12:44 am

    Thank you for this post and for all you’ve written about this matter. I still remember the bright pink milk left over from the dyes in the cereal I ate for breakfast (Apple Jax) as a kid. I’m so glad my children aren’t being poisoned in that way at home anyway. (Parents bring in dye-laden snacks. It makes me so frustrated). It’s time already. FDA, are you listening?!

    Jennifer Margulis @ Mothering Outside the Lines

  • jenna @ Kid Appeal April 2, 2011, 4:20 pm

    the part that ticks me off most about food dyes is the unexpected places we find them in. a number of whole grain, lower sugar breakfast cereals that aren’t jacked up with colorful oat pieces contain food dyes to make them, um, more brown. are whole grain oats and wheat bran not brown enough? i would love for there to be a list of “food dyes in unexpected places” kraft white marshmallows and pickles would be two more to add to that list.

    you know what i say to the FDA who are not willing to protect the children who do suffer from abnormal brain activity when they consume food dyes? the prosperity of our nation is in your hands. our schools and colleges can not nurture and grow great minds because of the garbage marketed to and consumed by our learning and employed population. great move.

  • Julie April 13, 2011, 10:18 pm

    I have to thank you (and jenna at Kid Appeal) for bringing this to my attention a few months ago. I had never put the pieces together in my brain between the food dyes and my child. I am good about so much nutritionally (organic, whole foods cooked at home, etc) but when it came to candy especially I never connected it to my daughters mood swings. She is naturally moody thanks to my genes but until I started reading up on this issue it just didn’t register. Once we started paying attention after a sucker or birthday cupcake it became so clear. I explained to her our thoughts about what was happening and she was really open to cutting it out of our family diet. Even though she is 5 she understood that she doesn’t like the way she feels after she eats those things and since thankfully I can offer her alternatives she doesn’t feel like she has to give it all up.
    Here is the outrageous part to me though, when my friends found out that we were cutting it out of our diet because she was “sensitive to food dyes” (my words to them) they were sympathetic and happy to accomodate for birthdays and such but I swear they act as though it is an allergy and not something they should consider in their own children’s livelihood.

    • Christina April 14, 2011, 11:00 am

      Julie, thank you so much for sharing this, and I’m so glad that Jenna and I could help. Those a-ha moments are truly amazing, aren’t they? I love that your daughter recognizes how the dyes make her feel. Kids are capable of understanding so much if we just give them a chance.

      I’m with you in being puzzled by that last bit. One mom at my daughter’s school has taken to asking me a lot of food questions, which is terrific, and she truly seems interested in making changes. But following a recent parking-lot conversation about food dyes and other additives, she walked to the car and handed her son a bag of Doritos. Sigh. I try to take heart in the fact that at least she’s asking the questions.

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