If you’re old enough to remember the red M&M scare of the late 1970s, then you probably have kids of your own now to worry about. The red dye (which, by the way, was never an ingredient in red M&Ms) was FD&C Red 2 and was thought to be cancer promoting. Parents have been rallying against food additives for years, claiming they cause kids to be hyperactive, but now there is more reason for concern. There is new science to back up these criticisms, as the FDA is reviewing evidence that suggests artificial food dyes may exacerbate attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in kids that have the condition.
This issue was brought to the attention of the FDA by the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), which sites scientific research supporting the association between food dyes and ADHD, as well as touting an elimination diet popular in the ’70s for treating ADHD. The diet removed all synthetic dyes, preservatives and salicylates and resulted in improvements in ADHD symptoms in many children.
You may recognize the food dyes in questions from the ingredient labels on sodas, chips and other processed foods: FD&C Blue 1 and 2, FD&C Green 3, Orange B, FD&C Red 3, FD&C Red 40, and FD&C Yellow 5 and 6. The only role of these food dyes is to make foods look more appealing, so it should be pretty easy to remove them if the FDA finds adequate evidence that they are indeed harmful to children.
This issue gives us yet another reason to have a diet rich in whole foods rather than relying on processed items. If you do buy processed foods for your kids, check the ingredient labels and try to avoid artificial dyes. Although a product may be labeled “natural,” it does not mean they are good for you. Neon colors may be the latest fashion trend, but it’s best to keep them out of your food.