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Organic Consumers Association

Food Dyes May Cause Hyperactivity in Some Children

For related articles and more information, please visit OCA's Health Issues page, Appetite For a Change page and our Food Safety Research Center page.

Spotting foods with artificial colors is not as straightforward as it may seem, and although such additives are listed on food labels, the actual amounts used in common foods are not.

If your child eats a bowl of packaged macaroni and cheese or breakfast cereal, for instance, is he or she ingesting more than 30 milligrams (mg) of dye? This is the amount that has been found to cause behavioral issues in some children.

But it's not only rainbow-colored cereal, cupcakes, and candies that contain artificial colors. Even salad dressing, peanut butter crackers, soups, and chips often contain synthetic dyes. If you or your children consume multiple artificially colored foods at one sitting, the amount of dye can add up quickly, with unknown consequences to your health.

First Study Reveals How Much Dye Is in Common Foods

A study by Purdue University scientists reported the amounts of artificial food colors found in US foods, and revealed that many children could be consuming far more dyes than previously thought.1

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) permits nine different colors to be added to foods, and the agency certifies each batch for "purity and safety." Well, the amount of dye certified has risen from 12 mg per capita, per day in 1950 to 62 mg/capita/day in 2010. It's clear that Americans are consuming more artificial colors, but how much is in your food?     


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