Don’t Color Me ANYTHING!

July 18, 2008 at 11:51 am | Posted in Science | 7 Comments

Yesterday, the Baltimore Sun ran an interesting article about the dangers of artificial colors in food products.  Of course, this article comes only about 34 years too late, but better late than never, I guess.  The article details the pressure the FDA is coming under to review its stance on the safety of chemical food dyes in light of recent statement by its British counterpart.   However, the FDA refuses to cave.

This should come as no surprise, considering the way the FDA operates.   Far be it for them to bite the hand that feeds them.  In the meantime, manufacturers continue to pour more and more artificial colors into their products.  And I’m pretty sure that they know exactly what these chemicals do.  Why else would Gatorade come in such garish colors?  What really irks me is that companies like Kraft, Mars, and Cadbury will voluntarily change their recipes in the UK, but leave them unchanged in the American markets.

My family has been on the Feingold Diet for a number of years now, originally to help with some of our youngsters’ behavioral problems.  But, I think it has helped with a broad range of issues, from general health to fertility (where did you think all the small lookalikes came from?)  Our kids rarely get sick, and usually is it nowhere as severe as what is making the rounds. 

Any chemist will tell you that any chemical compound can be dangerous if ingested.  When asked about the safety of a particular compound, my chemistry professor would always tell us, “Well, it won’t kill you right away.”  The problem seems to be that if a chemical doesn’t make you sick, then the FDA concludes that it must be safe.  And everyone believes the FDA — after all, they wear white lab coats.

Addendum:  The following was forwarded to me by my lovely wife, who belongs to a number of groups providing information on the topic.  Please take a moment to write to the address below — you may help change food history!

Meanwhile, McDonald’s has been in touch with the CSPI (Center for Science in the Public Interest) and has told them that they really aren’t sure that Americans are concerned about the fact that their food contains synthetic dyes.  McDonald’s has asked their nutrition & labeling manager, Julia Braun, to gather information on whether or not consumers have any interest in this area.

Julia says that McDonald’s rarely does anything unless they can document a consumer demand, so she has invited parents to write to her and share their feelings about food dyes, and she has provided information below on how to reach her. 

Her contact info:2111 McDonald’s Drive
    Oak Brook, IL  60523


    Julia Braun, MPH, RD
    Nutrition & Labeling Manager



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  1. This is one of many reasons why I love you so much. If we only had enough money – *we* could buy the FDA and make them do whatever *we* wanted!

  2. Good article. Yes, this has always disturbed me. I would like to know who originally came up with the idea of putting substances in food that aren’t food in order for them to look prettier or last longer, etc. It’s really pretty crazy if you think about it.

  3. But, ugly colours don’t taste good.

  4. Heh. No colors have flavor, unless you’re a synaesthete.

    Yes, Salon1 — It makes you wonder how unappealing all the mass-produced food we eat would be without all the additives…

  5. Thanks for visiting my blog.

    I’ve been thinking about this as well. Thanks for sending me the link to this post.

  6. It appears however that the UK study is hardly conclusive, and nothing mentioned about some sort of health hazard (other than possibly hyper activity, but that is hard to classify as a hazard to one’s health – parents excepted). We had this alarm go off in our household during the 1970’s, with my dear Birkenstock clad sister leading the way. Fast forward 30 some odd years and the studies about the artificial food coloring is at a complete standstill.

  7. Thanks for the reply. The UK study seems to corroborate earlier studies on the effects of food dyes, and their analysis seems conclusive on the face of it — I haven’t worked through the statistics myself. Personally, I’d rate chemically-induced hyperactivity as a health concern that at least should require some labelling, although anecdotal evidence seems to indicate the potential for a broad range of symptoms ranging from attention-deficit, recurring infections, and self-destructive behavior. We have experienced these in our own family.

    The only reason that the additive studies appear to be at a standstill is that the FDA is in charge of the final recommendations. We all know what a great track record they have as of late. Given a multi-billion dollar market, is it any wonder they are dragging their feet on working through any of the multitude of recent studies?

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