Added Food ColorsMany food manufacturers add coloring agents to their products. Colors can come from natural sources or artificial chemicals. The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is responsible for ensuring that ingredients added to foods are safe.
Currently there are nine chemical colors that are certified by the FDA for use in human foods. There are additional color additives that come from vegetables, minerals and animals that are not required by the FDA to be certified, but are allowed to be used in food. For example, beet extract is used in foods as a coloring agent.
The FDA requires that food dyes undergo a petition process before they can be certified for use in foods. During this process, the FDA considers the chemical composition of the dye, the amount likely to be consumed, possible long-term effects, and safety concerns. Often times, animal studies are required to demonstrate the chemical’s safety. Once approved, the FDA has a system in place to continue monitoring the safety of the coloring agent. Part of this system is to investigate reports from individuals and physicians of adverse effects related to food dyes.
There is new evidence that brings into question the safety of several commonly used food dyes. Two recent studies have shown an association between the consumption of foods with food dyes and hyperactivity in children. Based on these findings, the United Kingdom’s Food Standards Agency issued a request in 2008 for food manufacturers to voluntarily ban six artificial food colors. Further, in July of 2008, the European Parliament approved a warning for packages of foods that contain any of the six food dyes. The warning states “May have an adverse effect on the activity and attention in children.” Also in 2008, the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) filed a petition with the FDA to ban eight food dyes used in the United States, stating that the ‘safety’ of these dyes is based on misinterpretations of old research. Although more research is needed to provide conclusive evidence, there is a growing body of research supporting the hypothesis that food dyes have adverse health effects on children.
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