FDA Fails to Encourage Restrictions on Food Dyes

Written By:
WholeFoods Magazine Staff
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Rockville, MD—Many natural products supporters are dissatisfied with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Food Advisory Committee's late-March vote, advising FDA that synthetic colors used in foods do not need to carry warning labels.

The FDA group recently reviewed data and testimony from parents and experts linking synthetic food dyes to attention disorders and hyperactivity problems in children, but found there wasn’t sufficient evidence to draw a causal link. According to a CNN health report, “The committee did stress that there seems to be a trend with artificial dyes and side effects in children and that more research is needed.”

After the decision was made, Michael F. Jacobson, executive director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, stated to WholeFoods “An advisory committee to the FDA narrowly voted (8-6) against recommending that dyed foods bear a warning notice, but the FDA is not bound by that advice. My organization will continue to press for a mandatory warning label, but we also will be encouraging companies to voluntarily switch to safer natural colorings." Such warnings for dyes like Blue #1, Yellow #5 and #6 exist already exist in Europe.

Jacobsen went on to note than some major retailers like Trader Joe's and Starbucks have steered clear of synthetic dyes. He also went on to explain the potential impact of these trends on the market share of natural food coloring: "Partly because of the general move toward more natural foods, the FDA's acknowledgement that dyes trigger hyperactivity in some children, and the required warning notice in the European Union, natural products certainly will constitute a growing fraction of the food coloring supply in the coming years."

Published in WholeFoods Magazine, May 2011, online 4/4/11