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Food Trends: Artificial Food Dyes- what’s the verdict?

How about all that chatter this week regarding artificial food dyes?  Not only was this in the news, blog posts, all over my facebook but it was also a big story on Good Morning America.  The FDA’s advisory panel was to finally attend a “colorthon” for two days this week to discuss a hypothesized correlation between food dyes and hyperactivity.

Some studies have linked food dyes to hyperactivity in children and even suggest it could predispose to different Cancers.  After reviewing this evidence, the British government mandated manufacturers to display government warnings on all foods containing food dyes.  Guess what happened?  Suddenly companies were substituting beet extract in place of the red dye #40.  Fooducate ™ alerted me to the fact that Kellogg’s changed the red dye #40 in their Nutrigrain Bars to beet extract in Britain but no changes have been made in the United States. 

Although the FDA labeled food dyes such as red dye #40 and yellow #5 as generally recommended as safe (GRAS) many parents and some clinician’s recommend to stay as far away from food dyes as possible.

I myself have some personal experience with sensitivity to dyes. My three year old displayed a delayed onset allergy to red dye #3 this winter.  The onset of hives and difficulty breathing were scary for me, as I have lived with severe allergies and asthma since I can remember.  I felt I was very lucky to be a dietitian as I believe I quickly found the culprit but there really is no certain way to know if this was the issue because there is no test for a specific dye allergy.

Either way, I decided to remove all red dye from my house the day my son was put on prednisone and have not looked back.  It is worth mentioning, however, how upset I was when the pharmacy handed me a generic form of prednisone that was red. Thankfully, I asked the pharmacist to check if this was natural.  Guess what? Yes, you guessed it red dye #40.  The very nice pharmacist switched this right out for me and since then we have been hive free in this household.

Thankfully I had always chosen dye free products for my children prior to this event, , but looking through everything else was a horrifying experience.  The toothpaste, bubble bath, most flavored yogurts, Jell-o, macaroni and cheese, Tylenols, Benadryl, and most vitamins. It was a big job!

So, what came about the “colorthon?”  Well, the LA Times just published that the meeting is over and the FDA is not convinced there is enough evidence to link food dyes to hyperactivity.  They suggest further studies. As far as Cancers and food allergies, they feel the same. We need more research.

In the meantime, with my Mom hat on, I say go with your gut.  Fresh foods are always your best bets.  When looking at ingredient lists avoid any of the food colorings listed as well as annatto and tartrazine (yellow dye) and carmine (red dye).  It’s also worth avoiding anything that’s honey flavored or lists artificial coloring.  Are your children sensitive to food colorings?  I’d love to hear your story.  Be well!

Comments

DanielsMom said…
sWhat are the chances of a delayed onset of a sensitivity to a food dye which causes uncontrollable fits of rage. Beyond a temper tantrum.
Ask Amy said…
Hi DanielsMom. There are thoughts that food dyes can attribute to hyperactivity. I also have experience with food intolerance reactions to dyes that are delayed. My recommendation is to always try an elimnation diet and then reassess symptoms etc. If you would like help with an elimination diet please feel free to email me at agoldsmith@kindrednutrition.com.

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