The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) says food dyes pose a number of risks to the American public and is calling on the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to ban Yellow dye # 6. A new CSPI report says Yellow dye # 6 contains known carcinogens and contaminants that unnecessarily increase the risks of cancer, hyperactivity in children and allergic reactions.
These synthetic chemicals do absolutely nothing to improve the nutritional quality or safety of foods, but trigger behavior problems in children and, possibly, cancer in anyone.
Tests done on lab animals found contaminants that raised health concerns about several of the nine dyes currently approved for market. The approved dyes are Blue 1 & 2, Citrus Red 2, Green 3, Orange B, Red 3 & 40 and Yellow 5 & 6. And every year, about 15 million pounds of these dyes wind up in our food, with a lot of it ending up in things like candy, fruit drinks and cereals.
The Food Standards Agency, an independent government agency in Great Britain, released research a few years ago that suggested a linked between hyperactivity in some children and certain food coloring. Starting July 20th in the European Union, food containing some of these dyes will carry additional warning labels indicating possible adverse effects on “activity and attention in children.”
CSPI went to Britain in 2008 to check out the differences in dye use first hand. It says it found more concern about food dyes and more government oversight. For example, CSPI says McDonald’s Strawberry Sundaes get their color from fresh strawberries. The group says in the United States the color comes from Red dye 40. CSPI say in the UK, Fanta orange soda coloring comes from pumpkins and carrot extract. Here, it says the color comes from Red 40 and Yellow 6 dye.
Yellow dye #6 is a sulfonated version of Sudan I, a possible carcinogen which is frequently present in it as an impurity. Sunset Yellow itself may be responsible for causing an allergic reaction, resulting in various symptoms, including gastric upset, diarrhea, vomiting, nettle rash (urticaria), swelling of the skin (angioe sulfonated dema) and migraines. The coloring has also been linked to hyperactivity in young children
Food dyes like yellow dye #6 are synthetic chemicals and you’ve seen them on many an ingredient list. Without them, your cheesy macaroni might not be yellow and your fruit punch might not be red. Thousands of grocery store items contain artificial food dyes.
Yellow 6 is a smaller molecule than Red 40 and reflects light at a slightly higher frequency. While Red 40 is described as an orangish-red color, Yellow 6 is described as a Yellowish-orange color. Its most often used to create a pure orange color in foods – just as you’ll find Red 40 in cherry and strawberry flavored foods, you’ll find Yellow 6 in orange flavored foods.
There have been a lot of studies on the effects of artificial food dyes on children, dating back to the 1970s. Some showed that food dyes could cause behavioral problems in children, and others didn’t. But a few years ago, an analysis of 21 of the most conclusive studies found compelling evidence that, indeed, artificial dyes could 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. In other words, certain kids with ADHD might not need drugs if the artificial dyes were removed from their diets.
Kids like color; thus artificial dyes are most prevalent in products that appeal to children – such as snack foods and cereals. Parents who want to avoid artificial dyes can find it’s a complicated process requiring careful examination of each ingredient label. One brand of tortilla chip may contain two dyes while the brand sitting right next to it contains none. Just because a food item is white or pale-colored is no guarantee is does not contain dyes. Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods claim the products they sell contain no artificial dyes, but not every shopper has access to those chains. And of course, restaurants don’t post ingredient lists on their menus!