March 29th, 2011

FDA Scrutinizes Artificial Food Dyes

The Wall Street Journal

A Food and Drug Administration panel plans to meet this week to consider the potential link between hyperactivity in children and artificial dyes found in common foods such as candy, waffles and salad dressing.

The FDA is reconsidering its long-held position that the dyes pose no risk to children or anyone else. Artificial food dyes with names like Yellow 5 have long been targeted by some scientists and consumer advocates concerned that they could cause hyperactivity in children.

The panel, which will meet Wednesday and Thursday, is expected to possibly call for more research. It isn’t expected to take bigger steps such as banning artificial coloring.

The FDA signaled the first change in its thinking last week in a memo that said artificial food dye is an issue “for certain susceptible children with ADHD [attention deficit hyperactivity disorder] and other problem behaviors.” The FDA said there isn’t a link between hyperactivity and food dyes in the general population.

“The data suggest that their condition may be exacerbated by exposure to a number of substances in food, including, but not limited to, artificial food colors,” the FDA memo said.

“Their kids are rambunctious or inattentive, [parents] don’t think maybe it’s the food dyes in the M&M’s or the instant oatmeal,” said Michael Jacobson, executive director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest. The public health watchdog group petitioned the FDA to review eight food dyes in June 2008, which led to this week’s meeting.

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