FDA Nannies Target Artificial Food Coloring

Helen Whalen Cohen
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Posted: Mar 31, 2011 3:23 PM
The New York Times reports that the FDA is revisiting its stance on artificial food coloring. Government officials are concerned that artificial dyes exacerbate hyperactivity in children who already have behavioral problems.

After staunchly defending the safety of artificial food colorings, the federal government is for the first time publicly reassessing whether foods like Jell-O, Lucky Charms cereal and Minute Maid Lemonade should carry warnings that the bright artificial colorings in them worsen behavior problems like hyperactivity in some children.

The Food and Drug Administration concluded long ago that there was no definitive link between the colorings and behavior or health problems, and the agency is unlikely to change its mind any time soon. But on Wednesday and Thursday, the F.D.A. will ask a panel of experts to review the evidence and advise on possible policy changes, which could include warning labels on food.

In a concluding report, staff scientists from the F.D.A. wrote that while typical children might be unaffected by the dyes, those with behavioral disorders might have their conditions “exacerbated by exposure to a number of substances in food, including, but not limited to, synthetic color additives.”

Renee Shutters, a mother of two from Jamestown, N.Y., said in a telephone interview on Tuesday that two years ago, her son Trenton, then 5, was having serious behavioral problems at school until she eliminated artificial food colorings from his diet. “I know for sure I found the root cause of this one because you can turn it on and off like a switch,” Ms. Shutters said.

Since when do artificial foods need a warning label? Are parents really that inept that they need the government to warn them about possible side effects of feeding their kids junk food? The anecdote in the Times story seems to suggest otherwise. Ms. Shutters told reporters that she noticed her child's behavior without the help of the FDA, and made appropriate changes. If a parent can't handle this, then we have a lot more to worry about than artificial dyes in processed food.