Saturday, September 11, 2010

The Color of Safety

Synthetic food colorings are made from petroleum. Food companies like them because they are cheaper, more stable, and brighter than natural food colorings like paprika, beet or blueberry juice. The use of synthetic dyes has increased five-fold over the past 50 years. Today, there are still lingering questions about the safety of the nine synthetic dyes that are used in candies, breakfast cereals and other processed concoctions. The dyes in question are: Blue 1, Blue 2, Citrus Red 2, Green 3, Orange B, Red 3, Red 40, Yellow 5, and Yellow 6.
Twenty years ago, the FDA banned Red 3 from cosmetics and topically applied drug because the dye caused cancer of the thyroid gland in animal studies. But, the FDA never got around to prohibiting the use in food and drugs that are swallowed. Then, in 1984, the FDA (the then-acting commissioner) reported that Red 3 "was of greatest public health concern,... and has clearly been shown to induce cancer." Since then, the food industry has poured 5 million pounds of Red 3 into the food supply.
The second most popular dye is tartrazine, (Yellow 5) which has been found to cause hives. Recent studies show damaged DNA in test animals, which is often a sign of carcinogens. Yellow 5 & 6 can also be contaminated with the human carcinogen benzidine.
Thought the FDA has dismissed claims of ADHD resulting from synthetic food dyes over the years, two current studies commissioned by the British government revealed that the dyes do affect children who haven't been diagnosed with a behavioral disorder. As a result, the European Parliament passed a law requiring warning notices on foods that contain at least one of the six dyes used in the studies.
True, all food colors must pass FDA testing, not all impurities are detected in the routine testing. The FDA says it doesn't have the resources to do more thorough testing. Both the FDA and Canadian govt. scientists discovered that the benzidine is bound to the molecules in the dyes (the less-detectable version), and are sometimes contaminated with up to 1000 times more bound than free benzidine.
The bottom line: READ the labels of products you purchase and avoid the synthetic dyes.
To read more about hyperactivity in food dyes, the new report by CSPI is available at

~Center for Science in the Public Interest

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