The Alarming Facts About Artificial Food Coloring and Our Children’s Health
There is so much information available about the safety of artificial food coloring that is present in our food. How do we make an educated decision about whether to feel comfortable with these additives or steer clear of them? The answers do not come as easily as I would like them to so I will supply you with the information in a clear and balanced way. Because there is so much to discuss, I will focus on the effects of certain food colorings on hyperactivity in our kids and what the controversy is all about.
If you have ever spent one minute worrying about what you are putting in your child’s body, then read on….
On the FDA website it clearly states that there is no cause for alarm. “In 2007, synthetic-certified color additives came under scrutiny following publication of a study commissioned by the U.K. Food Standards Agency (FSA) to investigate whether certain color additives cause hyperactivity in children. Both the FDA and the European Food Safety Authority independently reviewed the results from this study and concluded that the study does not substantiate a link between the color additives that were tested and behavioral effects.”
This is not quite accurate. Although the FDA continues to drag its feet, the Southampton study did determine that there was a strong link to the consumption of these additives and hyperactivity in a broad range of children.In fact, this study is referenced and addressed on the FSA website and the following advice is given, “Research funded by the FSA has suggested that consumption of mixes of certain artificial food colours and the preservative sodium benzoate could be linked to increased hyperactivity in some children…If your child shows signs of hyperactivity, or if on the basis of this information you have concerns, you might choose to avoid giving your child food or drinks that contain these additives.”
In addition, Dr. Andrew Wadge, the FSA’s Chief scientist, said: “This study (Southampton) is a helpful additional contribution to our knowledge of the possible side effects of artificial colours on children’s behavior.”
Big difference? I think so. They still will not stand by the study with both feet on the ground and throw ingestion of these additives under the bus but they are stating that maybe you should think about it. That is the purpose of this blog- think about it.
As a result of this study, a European Union-wide mandatory warning is now required on any food and drink that contain the colors contained in the Southampton study. The label carries a warning “may have an adverse effect on activity and attention in children.” It is also states on the FSA website that the agency is encouraging manufacturers to work towards finding alternatives to the colors in question and some manufacturers have already begun to remove them from their products.
It is obvious that they are taking this data a lot more serious than the FDA is, wouldn’t you agree? (Don’t get me wrong- there is some flip-flopping going on in the U.K. and the E.U. – because that is what happens after a results are released- there is no getting around it.)
So, what does this mean? Well…if you purchase, for example, Skittles or Starburst in the U.K. they do not have these coloring in them, but here in the U.S. they remain. I have bags of these examples and I use them in my workshops. Order a strawberry shake under the arch and red-40 has been replaced with less questionable ingredients.
Check out the FSA website for yourself, then check out the FDA site and draw your own conclusions. That is all I ask.
When parents ask me if I believe these ingredients should be eliminated from our children’s diet, I respond: “ Absolutely!” Why? Well first and foremost because they are “ARTIFICIAL”. Why is it they we are willing to reduce fat, reduce sugar & reduce carbs from our tables and yet we are still confused about this?
The safest way to approach the confusion is to make the decision that if it isn’t “real” and it isn’t food, we shouldn’t be putting it in our bodies.
The FDA is promising to give this more attention in the near future, which I appreciate, but until then it is up to us to make the relevant decisions for ourselves. If your child is hyperactive, or if you simply feel that you do not want to feed them something that may compromise their ability to maintain focus and not have this ability compromised, then eliminating these ingredients is a no brainer. If you want to play it safe and I believe that you do, then just make a vow to vote with your shopping cart and refuse to buy anything that has food coloring in it. You can then rest easy that you are not willingly feeding your children something that may get in the way of their ability to function daily, at an optimal level.
Not long ago, Pepperidge Farm eliminated, by choice, food coloring from those tasty little goldfish treats our kids are all addicted to. They did this because they felt it was the right thing to do. “There were so many consumers who had children that had problems with artificial food colors that we decided to change to natural colorants.” Isn’t that a beautiful thing!
They now replaced the artificial colors with ingredients like beet juice and watermelon concentrates. Wow! Is it really so much to ask for? Obviously not! Why is this so complicated? Now, whenever I feel like breaking the rules and I buy a bag of Geneva cookies, which I love, at least I feel like I am purchasing a product from a company that appears to be paying attention. And yes, I know there is hydrogenated oil in these cookies, but once in while I fall of the wagon.
Keep in mind that this piece is just addressing food coloring and hyperactivity. These artificial food colorants also pose a rainbow of additional risks including allergic reactions and cancer.
So I implore you to vote with your shopping cart and a send a strong message that what we want is not that complicated. We want REAL food in our food!
I purposely did not include the artificial food colorings that were a part of the Southampton study. I did this because I feel that all artificial coloring is something that we can easily eliminate from our diet. However, I am sure I will receive countless emails requesting this information so here you go:
Sunset yellow (such a pretty name) – FD&C Yellow #6 / E110
Quinoline yellow – yellow- 13 / E104
Carmoisine – red -3 / E122
Allura red (pretty name- still don’t want to eat it ) – red 17/red 40/ E128
Tartrazine – FD&C yellow 5/ E102
Ponceau (includes cochineal- more on that later) – Too many sub names to list
Sodium benzoate – E 211
Demand real whole food! Settle for nothing less!
*References available upon request.