Magazine article Nutrition Action Healthletter

The Dyes Have It

Magazine article Nutrition Action Healthletter

The Dyes Have It

Article excerpt

What gives Fanta Orange soda its color? In the United States, it's two synthetic food dyes: Red 40 and Yellow 6. In England, it's pumpkin and carrot extract. At a U.S. McDonald's, the strawberry sundae gets its color from Red 40. In England, the red comes from (surprise!) real strawberries.

Americans consume five times as much food dye as they did 30 years ago, according to the Food and Drug Administration. But the trend in other countries may be turning. British arms of General Mills, Kellogg, Kraft, Mars, and McDonald's, for example, use few or no dyes.

Why? Europeans dislike synthetic ingredients, and the companies aren't keen on putting warning labels on their foods.

Last summer, the European Parliament approved this warning for packages of foods that contain any one of six synthetic food dyes: "May have an adverse effect on activity and attention in children."

That was based on the results of two British studies that tested food dyes, together with the preservative sodium benzoate, in children from the general British population (and not suspected of being sensitive to dyes). (1,2) The British Food Standards Agency is urging companies to voluntarily dump the dyes.

In June, the Center for Science in the Public Interest (Nutrition Action's publisher) petitioned the FDA to ban Yellow 5 and 6, Red 3 and 40, Blue 1 and 2, Green 3, and Orange B in the United States.

"Why should Americans continue to consume these synthetic dyes when many multinational companies are phasing them out elsewhere?" asked CSPI executive director Michael Jacobson.

"The FDA's insistence that there is no evidence that dyes impair behavior is based on its misreading of a 25-year-old report. …

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