FDA Punts on Food Dye Issue

by Bettina Elias Siegel on April 1, 2011

As I reported here earlier, the Food and Drug Administration held a two-day hearing this week to address concerns that artificial food dyes can cause hyperactivity in some children.

An expert panel convened by the FDA had reported that while most children are unaffected by the dyes, children susceptible to hyperactivity can have worse symptoms after consuming them.  However, in move that will no doubt disappoint scientists and consumer advocates concerned about the issue, the FDA advisory committee voted 8 to 6 yesterday that there’s no need for foods containing artificial dyes to carry a warning label, let alone be banned.

Not surprisingly, the food industry hailed the FDA’s move.  As quoted in the New York Times, the Grocery Manufacturers Association said in a statement, “We agree with today’s F.D.A.’s advisory committee finding which determined that there is insufficient evidence of a causal link between artificial colors and hyperactivity in children.”

As Robyn McCord O’Brien outlined so well in her guest post here yesterday, American food manufacturers know how to color their foods with natural dyes and they already do so in European countries where regulation of these substances is stricter.  But of course, without regulatory pressure here, they’re may not want to do so voluntarily since natural dyes are more expensive, less shelf-stable and harder to come by when there are crop shortages.

On the other hand, as Melanie Warner of CBS’s BNET noted:

Perhaps the FDA is hoping that its hearings will generate enough public pressure to nudge food manufacturers to voluntarily start taking food dyes out of their products. The issue already landed on page one of the New York Times and on NBC Nightly News. Maybe for the FDA, that’s Mission Accomplished.

 

 

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