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Artificial Food Dyes, ADHD, Allergies and Cancer Connection

Updated on May 21, 2012

Food Additives Even Touch Remote Market Villages


I’ve long wondered if food dyes have an impact on our health. I’ve also been a proponent at stating “if what we consume is manipulated by man, there’s no way it can be as healthy for you as what mother earth provides naturally.” I’ve not found any consumable product manipulated by man and where science can positively state it’s better for our health than organic food products. As a matter of fact, the benefits results on our health is typically found to be the opposite

Manufacturers and the FDA admit chemical additives are a small component to our daily subsistence, little to no risk on our health; therefore there is no reason for concern. But what they don’t concern themselves with; if a diet consists of a lot of junk food with a lot of additives which is the case with many families living below the poverty level how does this scenario play out? While it is impossible to know the exat answer to this simple question, it is possible to make deductions that would imply, there are serious health risks at stake here for our kids. And I’m not just talking about a specific demographic of people.

It is a fact, approximately 15 million pounds of synthetic chemical color dyes have been added to our foods every year. And since 1955 this number has increased 5-fold. The dye additives have increased because the production and selections of processed food choices has increased to meet the fast food consumer demand.

Children being smaller than adults have bodies that are still growing; and their overall health appears to be very vulnerable to these food additives per scientific studies (Google search “dye additive risks”). So for small children, if all their diets consist of eye appealing foods with dye additives, e.g., brightly colored cereals, processed juices, snacks, candy treats and fast foods, then the probable risk to your child’s health has just increased.

What type of health risks show a connection with too much chemical food dye consumption? Research is showing a food dye connection to Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), allergy sensitivity and other related health issues and yes cancer (per animal lab studies). It is also fair to say other scientist have questioned the results of these studies as to their validity.

Concern from the Center for Science in the Public Interest has steered the FDA to further review and to take serious consideration and action for stricter regulation on artificial food additives. Some proponents of this movement want specified artificial food dyes (listed below) removed from foods completely. But this is easier said than done.

This action was sparked by this Public Interest group (consumer advocacy group based in Washington, D.C). It petitioned the FDA to conduct the scientific review of artificial colors and specified eight dyes that it feels should be banned or, at a minimum, labeled with a warning of dye in product. These dye classifications are: Blue No. 1, Blue No. 2, Green No. 3, Orange B, Red No. 3, Red No. 40, Yellow No. 5 and Yellow No. 6.

So what makes each one of these colorful eye appealing food dyes so horrible? Some of the food colors have been identified as potential cancer causing agents. Those suspected chemical agents are: Citrus Red No 2, Red No 3, Red No 40, Yellow No 5, and Yellow No 6, Blue No 1, Blue No 2 and Green No 3. The chemical dyes known to trigger allergies are: Blue No 1, Red No 40, Yellow No 5 and Yellow No 6.

So as you can see a majority of the dyes suspected of causing cancer and allergies are identified by the Public Interest group to ban these additives, or at minimum list warnings on consumer products. You will also note there are four chemical dyes that trigger allergies and are highly suspect as cancer causing agents (Blue No 1, Red No 40, Yellow No 5 and Yellow No 6).

While the Public Interest group advocates for banning these chemical additives and/or place warning labels on products, it’s not likely the government will do anything about it. This is because there are hundreds of billions of dollars and jobs at stake and these dyes are now added to practically every processed food product.

Why is there such resistance against banning or warning the public about these health risks? It is a fact through scientific studies that more products are sold based on consumer preference of these eye appealing dye colors. The food is more fun to consume and color also represents a perception of taste. This preference of eye appealing product also equates to massive profits for corporations.

Studies also show that people eating a colorless food item don’t register in the brain that the food tastes as good, even though the ingredients are exactly the same. So if you take the dye out of a Cheeto puff for example, it would probably look like a tan worm. But it can be turned back to a yellowish organic cheddar taste/color through the use of real cheese. But this organic Cheeto has a greater cost to produce and a short shelf life.

Fortunately for those concerned about food dyes, you do have choice to purchase foods without these types of food additives. For example, Whole Food Market and Trader Joes do not stock any food items with food dyes in them. And there are manufactures now producing more natural foods with color created out of puréeing strawberries, cherries, and mangos for example. And because of the organic market demand from consumers there are more natural foods filling store shelves. Products like Kraft macaroni, Cheese Organic White Cheddar and Kool-Aid Invisible are now available.

But even with this type of positive food change it is still a challenge to the few companies that fill this demand to stay profitable against other companies not required to follow in step. The reasons it makes this such a hard sell to food processing executives; the food is not as bright, it can fad in a short period of time and it is not cheap to process.

An advisory panel for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration concludes there is enough evidence to suggest a percentage of our children will be stimulated negatively from food dyes, or that their bodies will have some form of reaction. The most obvious appears to be allergies and hyperactivity making it more difficult to concentrate in school. And since food dyes have no nutritional value whatsoever, the critics state no risk from dye additives should be acceptable. It is also stated by the critics that the FDA is not doing its job. Its mandate is to protect consumers. And it is the advocacy groups that state chemical food dyes are seen as unsafe and dangerous. This is where the government is seen as failing miserably to protect our children.

Key vocal proponents of an FDA ban on food dyes include psychiatrist David Schab and consumer advocate Michael Jacobson of the Center for Science in the public Interest. Also Marion Nestle, a professor of nutrition, food studies and public health, New York University stated, “These dyes have no purpose whatsoever other than to sell junk food.”

It is interesting to note there are a handful of companies stepping forward to fill an organic market niche that produces all-organic candy sweet treats for our children. These products are made with Organic Fruit Juice and Sweeteners, 100% Vitamin C per serving, No Corn Syrup or GMO’s (Genetically Modified Organisms), Gluten Free and Made in a Nut-Free Facility. The company that is gaining traction in this innovative sugar treats market is “Surf Treats.” You can order these products on-line. To find these products simply type into your Internet search engine “Surf Treats.”

The opposition is very strong with deep pockets and still rules in favor of chemical additives in our foods. That is, to date, government panels have determined that whatever ill-health these dyes may cause in our children is insignificant and may only impact a small population. And that the evidence does not warrant the FDA to create policy that would force food manufacturers to ban, or put warning label on products that contain chemical dye additives.

On a positive note, with the age of information at our finger tips, organic niche markets will continue to become more healthy food conscious. And through education, consumers will continue to demand and search for more organic products. This shift in market preference momentum will continue to create more competitive healthy food manufacturing and food choices. And this change will also shift corporate business models to produce healthier food choices for consumers if they want to stay competitive in the market place and in business.


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