Artificial Color Warning Label: No Go

Dr. Ben Feingold, pediatrician and allergist, first linked artificial colors to hyperactivity (ADHD) in 1970s. His book Why Your Child is Hyperactive details an additive free diet, which helps kids who are diagnosed what was then called hyperactivity, now referred to as ADHD and ADD.

The diet takes some effort, especially in the initial stages. Most parents find that the success rate of over 80 percent more than makes up for any additional work.

I put my daughter, Jenny, on the Feingold diet for hyperactive children over thirty years ago. It would be more accurate to say that our family went on the diet, as it’s nearly impossible to have a 4-year-old on a different diet from the rest of the family.

People would often remark that they thought it would take too much work to keep food additives out of their diet. Obviously, they didn’t know how much “work” a hyperactive child required. The effort for the diet seemed easy in comparison.

Angel shows her blue tongue after eating artificial colors.

That was over thirty years ago. Despite the diet’s success, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Food Advisory Committee has yet to require warning labels on food containing artificial ingredients. Food additives are very big business. Foods which rely on additives are generally extremely profitable (chemical additives are far cheaper than real food). Drugs for treatment of ADHD are also big business. There is no profit for a diet free of additives.

Synthetic Color Additives in the News
March 31, the FDA voted 8 to 6 against recommending warning labels on foods with synthetic color additives. The one bright spot is that the panel did call for more studies to determine if there is a link between food colors and hyperactivity in children. FDA will consider the committee’s recommendations in the next few months and decide how to respond to the Center for Science in the Public Interest’s request to either ban food coloring or mandate warning labels.

The use of artificial food dyes has increased 50 percent since 1990. That’s twice as many products than I had to eliminate with Jenny. Today, synthetic colors are found in everything from pickles to bread. Artificial food colors were once made from coal tar but now derived from petroleum. (Read the last sentence once more: “Artificial food colors were once made from coal tar but now derived from petroleum.”) Yes, the bright colors you see in all processed foods are derived from PETROLEM.

Artificial dyes are more stable and cheaper than natural colors derived from fruits and vegetables. The real sticking point is natural colors are more expensive than the petroleum colors.

I remember my daughter’s pediatrician thinking I was a bit nutty when I told him of Jenny’s improvement when I took all the synthetic colors out of our food. I could tell that he didn’t really believe me. (I changed doctors.) I had my own accidental double-blind studies to affirm how they affected Jenny. When an artificial color or flavor was consumed by accident, Jenny’s ADHD would surface once again. To add insult to injury, it could take several days for it work its way through her system.

I guess nothings changed. Do I care if they can prove it in a double-blind study? Nope. Perhaps your children don’t have ADHD or ADD, but do you want them consuming products with petroleum colors? Don’t wait for the FDA to rescue your child.

You must be your family’s advocate. Read labels and vote with your dollar. If enough people stop purchasing foods with artificial chemicals, the retailers would use natural ingredients. Jenny is now grown with a family of her own, yet my husband and I don’t eat food with artificial additives. We are voting with our dollars, you should too.

2 thoughts on “Artificial Color Warning Label: No Go

  1. steve says:

    Yes! You are so right! These additives need to be banned!
    25 years ago, we discovered our young son would get very upset, silly, or hyperactive when given anything that contained these terrible petroleum based dyes!
    We took them out of his diet and we had a calm , attentive, and normal little boy.
    We went through our cupboards and threw out any food that said “Colour” or “Artificial colour”.
    We also discovered that “Sodium Benzoate Preservative” had a simular effect on him!
    After some trail and error, we helped him calm down by removing all these additives from his diet.
    Our wonderful smart son has now just finished his Doctorate.
    This is totally true! Also in 2007 when Dr Jim Stevenson of Southampton University in England found that these very same chemicals effected other children, we wrote to him saying how very happy we were to have him confirm our very own “at home” study that found these additives effected our children.

  2. Elizabeth Yarnell says:

    My son is very sensitive to food dyes, as well. Now that he eats a “clean” diet, we see very clearly the effects the food dyes have on him when he strays: he becomes a violent, out-of-control kid with a mean streak about 7 hours after eating food dyes. Often, I can tell that his face is swollen after eating food dyes, too. I’m constantly astounded by how many doctors don’t see a link, but then again, we couldn’t see things this dramatically until we also identified and removed everything else his body was reacting to. Now, we have a happy, sweet child where we used to have tantrums and trouble.

    He recently had strep and even the antibiotics from the pediatrician contained food dye to make it pink! We were glad when the course was finished! Here are some more meds that contain food dyes: http://www.effortlesseating.com/2011/03/food-colors-and-dyes-fdc-in-medicines/

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