FDA Considers Food Color Warning Labels – Research Suggests Kids Behavior Changes

The FDA panel is considering warnings for artificial food colorings due to the possibility of worsening behaviors in children, such as hyperactivity, according to the New York Times. The panel will meet Wednesday, March 30th.

The FDA has staunchly defended the safety of these artificial food coloring found in hundreds of food items for years, but today they are taking a second look. This second look will just be to decide whether foods made with these dyes should carry warning labels.

Foods such as Jell-O, Lucky Charms cereal, and Minute Maid Lemonade that use these artificial food colors may worsen the behavior in children. The FDA is considering putting warning labels on the foods that contain the artificial food coloring suspected of doing this.

The FDA concluded many years ago that there was no link between these artificial food colorings and behavior or health problems, and although they are not swaying from their stand on this, a panel is set to review some new findings.

A panel of experts has been put together by the FDA and they have been asked to look over evidence and advise the FDA on any changes needed for the labeling or policy changes of these artificial food coloring containing foods.

These hearings signal that the growing list of studies suggesting a link between the artificial food colorings and behavioral changes in children has gotten the FDA’s attention.

“In a concluding report, staff scientists from the FDA wrote that while typical children might be unaffected by the dyes, those with behavioral problems might have their conditions exacerbated by exposure to a number of substances in food, including by not limited to, synthetic color additive,” according to the NY Times.

Renee Shutters, a mother of two from Jamestown, N.Y. said in an interview with the Times that two years ago her son’s serious behavioral problems at school did not stop until she eliminated the artificial food coloring products from his diet. She says that she knows for sure that the artificial food colorings were the culprits. She says she found the root cause of her son’s behavioral problems “because you can turn it on and off like a switch.”

The FDA has been cracking down on food coloring for more than a century when the early ones were not only toxic, but they were sometimes used to mask filth or rot. Many children became ill in 1950 after eating Halloween candy containing Orange No. 1 dye and the FDA banned it after rigorous testing.

1976 was the year that the FDA banned Red No. 2 dye because it was a suspected carcinogenic. Red No. 40 replaced it. Many of the dyes used in food coloring were approved by the FDA in 1931, including Blue No. 1, Yellow No. 5, and Red No. 3. Artificial dyes were developed from coal tar, just as aspirin was. Today they are now made from petroleum products.

Dr. Benjamin Feingold, a pediatric allergist from California, had some success treating the symptoms of hyperactivity in some children in the 1970’s. Feingold gave them a diet that, along with other changes, eliminated artificial food colorings. A study that was published in the Lancet Medical Journal in 2007 suggested that a fruity drink containing a cocktail of artificial coloring might lead to behavioral changes even in children, with no previous behavioral problems.

The FDA is considering putting warnings on food that contain the food coloring dyes. The outcome from this panel of experts may be the deciding factor on which way they will go with this. According to the Times, the panel will most likely ask for more studies to be done on this, but such calls are “routinely ignored.”

Reference: NY Times