Color controversy

Spurred on by a successful revolt against artificial food dyes in the UK, the Washington D.C.-base Center for a Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) filed a petition with the FDA to ban the two most commonly used dyes, Red 40 and Yellow 5, as well as six other colors -- Blue 1, Blue 2, Green 3, Orange B, Red 3, and Yellow 6 -- claiming they are linked to hyperactivity in children. The center's petition also asks the FDA to require a warning label on foods with artificial dyes while it considers an outright ban. A staple in breakfast cereals, snacks and soft drinks, artificial colors tend to be less expensive and make foods look more vibrant than natural colorings.CSPI contends that controlled studies in the U.S., Europe and Australia conducted since the 1970s have linked artificial colors to behavioral problems in children, even though The European Food Safety Authority, a key EU agency, concluded this spring that there is "limited evidence" of a link between dyes and hyperactivity. But the UK's Food Standards Agency recommended that by the end of 2009, food manufacturers should stop using several artificial colors, and called for the UK to lobby for a Europe-wide ban.Meanwhile on the FDA’s Web site, it says “well-controlled studies have produced no evidence that food color additives cause hyperactivity or learning disabilities in children." And Julie Zawisza, an FDA spokeswoman, said that color additives undergo safety reviews prior to approval for marketing and that samples of each artificial coloring are tested, reports She said the agency reviewed one of the studies that the center cites in its petition calling for a ban. "(We) didn't find a reason to change our conclusions that the ingredients are safe for the general population," Zawisza said. "Also note that the European Food Safety Authority has a similar view." Robert Brackett, chief science officer for the Washington, D.C.-based Grocery Manufacturers Association, said the overwhelming majority of scientific evidence confirms the safety of certified food dyes. "Based on these findings, there is no need for consumers to alter their purchasing and eating habits," Brackett said. "They and their children can safely enjoy food products containing these food colors."


FDA An e-brochure on food ingredients and colors (prepared by the USDA and the IFIC Foundation) The European Food Safety Authority’s (EFSA) Opinion of the Southampton study on food colors and hyperactivity