Wednesday, January 11, 2012

How Safe is Food Coloring?

Many of us are still wary of food dyes because of reports about links between red dye #2 and cancer in the 1970s. While red dye #2 was subsequently banned from products sold in the United States, many health-conscious consumers continue to avoid foods with other artificial colors or dyes—even though the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) still considers them safe for human consumption.

But a 2010 analysis of past research on links between food dyes and health by the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) found compelling evidence that ingestion of artificial dyes can contribute to hyperactivity, restlessness and attention problems in some children—particularly those with ADHD. “What’s more, the studies suggested that removing dyes from those children’s diet was a quarter to half as effective in reducing those symptoms as giving the kids Ritalin or other stimulants,” reports Nancy Cordes, CBS News’ Consumer Safety Correspondent. “In other words, certain kids with ADHD might not need drugs if the artificial dyes were removed from their diets.” Several commonly used artificial food dyes are suspected carcinogens as well.

While it might be impossible to prevent your children from eating anything with artificial dye, you can do your part by shopping at Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s—both chains have banned products that use artificial dyes and carry all-natural food coloring for home cooking and baking projects.

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