If you’re wary of artificial food dyes, you’re in good company. A lot of parents are questioning whether these rainbow hues are safe for their kids, while scientists are working to get to the bottom of this decades-long debate.
Although red flags have been raised about food dyes since the 1970s — when researchers began investigating a potential connection between dyes and hyperactivity — the evidence seems to be building that there’s reason for worry. In 2010, the FDA acknowledged that substances in foods, including food coloring, may exacerbate ADHD in some susceptible kids. But the agency insists that they don’t affect enough of the population to warrant action and noted that food coloring is safe and tightly regulated. Opponents believe products containing food coloring should carry a warning label — or be banned outright. So is ditching dyes the right thing to do?
After talking to dozens of people on both sides of the debate, I’m confident that the piece is a balanced look at artificial food dyes: what the concerns really are, what questions still remain, and what YOU should do if you’re worried too.
As a reporter, I don’t include my opinion in my articles. My job is to do the reporting, sift through the facts, and present the issue so readers can decide for themselves.
But while immersed in researching food dyes, we took our kids out for ice cream at a favorite local place. Both boys got blue-tinted flavors, and we carried our cones out to the shop’s patio to eat. After finishing his cone, my younger son went wild. He raced around, talking in gibberish, giggling almost uncontrollably. He was making a scene that was outsized even for him, our resident ham. It seemed more than garden variety silliness. It seemed like the kid was on something. My husband and I looked at each other with raised eyebrows. Was he reacting to the blue dye?
I don’t know.
But I do know this: As a parent, I don’t want to worry about whether something in our food supply is impacting my child’s behavior–especially something that doesn’t serve any purpose in food beyond appearance. And especially when there are plant-based, natural colors that can be used instead (and are being used much more frequently overseas). I’m happy that more and more U.S.-based companies are listening to people’s concerns about synthetic dyes and eliminating them in some or all of their products. That’s how this change is going to happen.
Read “The Facts About Food Dyes“.
Special thanks to Center for Science in the Public Interest for sending me the European M&Ms used in these photos