Organic Consumers Association

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Dangers of Eating Food Dyes

For related articles and more information, please visit OCA's Food Safety page.
It's so inviting and tempting to eat multi-colored foods especially those with fruit flavors. It's already part of Filipino diet several decades ago eating artificially flavored and/or synthetic colored food.

Most children and some adults think that the pink, yellow, violet or red color in food was extracted from the natural source. While natural colorants made from foods like beets are available, many manufacturers opt for synthetic dyes which may have dangerous health consequences, particularly for children.

A consumer-watchdog group in Washington has asked the Food and Drug Administration to ban the use of synthetic dyes in food being cancerous and can cause other serious illnesses. The group has identified these artificial colors to avoid such as Blue 1 and 2, Citrus Red 2, Green 3, Red 3 and 40, Yellow 5 and 6.

According to the group, the Yellow 5, Yellow 6 and Red 40 are the serious ones that contain compounds, including benzidine and 4-aminobiphenyl, that research has linked with cancer.

Research has also associated food dyes with problems in children including allergies, hyperactivity, learning impairment, irritability and aggressiveness. A U.S. study published in Science found that children who scored high on a scale measuring hyperactivity had consumed a food-dye blend. They performed worse on tests that measured their ability to recall images than when they drank a placebo.

A 2007 British study found that children who consumed a mixture of common synthetic dyes displayed hyperactive behavior within an hour of consumption. (These children had not been diagnosed with ADD or ADHD.) The results, published in The Lancet, prompted Britain's Food Standards Agency to encourage manufacturers to find alternatives to food dyes. Last year, the European Parliament's mandate that foods and beverages containing food dyes must be labeled as such went into effect for the entire European Union.

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