FDA Declares Food Dyes for Kids Are Safe. But How Safe Are They?

Health & Wellness on 04.05.11
Guest Contributor, Allergy Kids Foundation bio | twitter

Photo: ginnerobot via flickr Creative Commons CC BY-SA 2.0.

The following guest article was written by authors and activists Laurie David and Robyn O'Brien. 

Last week, in the face of a just-released report by the National Cancer Institute that showed a 9.4% increase in childhood cancer between 1992 and 2007, the FDA let moms and dads all across America, down. Instead of making the long overdue move to do something serious about getting rid of toxic food dyes so ubiquitous in our food supply, they instead fell back on those two simple words so often used to stall, delay, and deny -- "more research" -- as it declared that warning labels for foods heavily laden with food colorings were unnecessary.  

In kitchens across this country, eight dyes currently being used by manufacturers can be found in everything from packaged macaroni and cheese and breakfast cereal to practically every piece of candy your child has ever put in her mouth. Links are being found to hyperactivity in kids (ADHD), cancer, and serious food allergies

But here is the truly crazy thing: Kraft, Coca-Cola, and Walmart have already removed these artificial food colors and dyes from the same products that they distribute in other countries. They did it in response to consumer demand and an extraordinary study called the Southampton Study.

The Southampton Study [pdf] was unusual in that it tested children on a combination of two ingredients: tartrazine (yellow #5) and sodium benzoate. The study’s designers knew that a child very rarely has occasion to ingest just a synthetic color or just a preservative; rather, a child who is gobbling up multicolored candies is probably taking in several colors and at least one preservative. 

What’s amazing is that in the U.K., the federal food safety agency actually funded the Southampton Study that led to even U.S. corporations eliminating synthetic colors and sodium benzoate from their U.K. products.  

And in response, a whole host of companies, including the U.K. branches of Walmart, Kraft, Coca-Cola and the Mars candy company (who make M&Ms), have voluntarily removed artificial colors, the preservative sodium benzoate, and even aspartame from their products. Particularly those marketed to kids. Take a close look at a partial ingredient list for Strawberry Nutrigrain bars made in the US versus those produced in the UK (image here): 

 

US: Red No. 40, Red No. 6, Blue No. 1

UK: Beetroot red, Annatto, Paprika extract 

 

Our American companies had removed these harmful ingredients from their products overseas—but not here! 

Kraft, Coca Cola, and Walmart are living proof that it is possible for giant corporations to make and sell kid-friendly, family-friendly, and healthy processed food without necessarily exposing them to a chemical cocktail that might also give them allergic reactions, brain tumors, leukemia, or the symptoms of ADHD, as the Center for Science in the Public Interest recently highlighted in their report Rainbow of Risks

No need to go through all the numbers for increased health problems here. You’ve heard them all and it isn’t pretty. For goodness sake, no more research necessary. Lets stop poisoning our own kids. Lets start assuming chemicals are dangerous until proven safe, not the other way around.

Is it too much to ask the FDA and the processed food companies for the same value to be placed on the lives of the American kids in their cost-benefit analyses that has been placed on the lives of kids in the UK?

Moms, we can create that same change here. And with 51 million moms waking up to the dangers that toxins present to the health of our kids, our numbers are equivalent to the entire population of Spain. Time to get down to business, level the playing field for our kids, and send a message to these companies. Vote with your pocketbook today, this weekend, next month as you grocery shop for your family. Because while the American children only represent 30% of our population, they are 100% of our future. So while the FDA may not value their lives accordingly, we can.

 

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