FDA Changing Tune on Artificial Food Dyes, ADHD

After 20 years of basically ignoring the issue, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) is set to take another look at <"http://www.yourlawyer.com/practice_areas/toxic_substances">artificial food dyes. This week, an FDA advisory panel will examine a possible link between artificial food dyes and hyperactivity in children.

The FDA has long held that artificial food dyes are safe, even though some pediatricians and other children’s advocates have called for the elimination of dyes and preservatives in the diets of children with behavior problems since the 1970s. Then, in 2007 a study commissioned by the UK Food Standards Agency linked hyperactivity in children to artificial colorings, some of which aren’t used in the U.S., and a food preservative. In the European Union, foods containing artificial food dyes have been required to carry warnings that they may have an “adverse effect on activity and attention in children” since 2008.

The same year the European Union mandated the warning, the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CPSI) urged the FDA to ban eight dyes – FD&C Blue 1 and 2; FD&C Green 3, Orange B, FD&C Red 3, FD&C Red 40, FD&C Yellow 5 and 6 – citing studies linking the dyes to behavioral effects mimicking hyperactivity in children.

The FDA has faced criticism over the past 15-20 years for failing to re-evaluate the artificial food dyes. But now according to a report in The Wall Street Journal, the agency’s thinking on food dyes may be changing. Last week, the agency said in a memo that though there is no link between hyperactivity and food dyes in the general population, “for certain susceptible children with ADHD [attention deficit hyperactivity disorder] and other problem behaviors.” According to the memo, the condition could be worsened by “a number of substances in food, including, but not limited to, artificial food colors.”

The FDA’s Food Advisory Committee will take up the matter of food dyes at a two-day hearings starting tomorrow. Those scheduled to testify include Dr. L. Eugene Arnold, a child psychiatrist specializing in ADHD and autism. He recently told ABC News that there are still many scientific issues that need to be clarified regarding food dyes and possible links to behavioral issues in children. But he also pointed out that the dyes are unnecessary additives, and removing them from foods poses no risk.

“Dyes are not an essential food group,” Arnold said. “We have an obesity epidemic; it’s not necessary to make food more attractive. The sole purpose of the dyes is to make food more attractive.”

Most doubt, however, that the FDA panel will go as far as to recommend a ban, or even a warning, on artificial food dyes. According to The Wall Street Journal, it is likely that the panel will call for more research into the matter.

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