FDA Panel Backs Artificial Food Dyes

After ignoring the issue of <"http://www.yourlawyer.com/practice_areas/toxic_substances">artificial food dyes and potential links to adverse health effects for nearly two decades, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) finally had an advisory panel look at the possible link between chemical colorings and hyperactivity in children. Sadly, but not unexpected, the panel backed the dyes in an 8-6 vote and rejected consumer advocate recommendations to issue warning labels or bans on the products many see as contributing to hyperactivity’s ubiquity, said WebMD.

The hearing lasted two days with the panel hearing presentations from agency experts and the petitioner—the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CPSI), said WebMD. In an 11-3 vote, the panel agreed with an FDA’s finding that no proof exists that food dyes worsen or cause hyperactivity in children; in a 13-1 vote the panel said doctors should not recommend food dye-free diets to parents of children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), but should support parents seeking to try such diets, said WebMD. This same advice was issued by the 1982 panel that last looked at the issue. As expected, the panel also unanimously voted—13-1—that more research be supported by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) into potential food dye-ADHD links.

The FDA has long maintained that that artificial food dyes are safe but, as far back as the 1970s, some pediatricians and other children’s advocates have called for the elimination of dyes and preservatives in the diets of children with behavior problems.

In 2007, a study commissioned by the UK Food Standards Agency linked hyperactivity in children to artificial colorings, some not used in the U.S., and one 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 European Union is an agency similar in construct and purpose to the FDA. The same year the European Union mandated the warning, 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. The FDA’s Food Advisory Committee took up the matter of food dyes at a two-day hearing that ended yesterday. Those scheduled to testify included Dr. L. Eugene Arnold, a child psychiatrist specializing in ADHD and autism who 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, pointing 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.”

For some time now, studies have suggested links between artificial food dyes and ADHD—a typically pediatric neurodevelopmental disorder that can affect adults. Now, an emerging study has found that children diagnosed with ADHD could have a so-called “unique intolerance” to these potentially dangerous chemicals, said ABC News, citing a just-released government report. “These colors carry risks,” said Bernard Weiss, PhD, professor of environmental medicine at the University of Rochester, previously. “The question for parents is this: Is it worth taking even minimal risks for benefits that do not exist?” quoted WebMD. Weiss has cited, as far back as 1980, clinical studies linking the dyes to pediatric behavioral problems.

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