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Nearly half of foods marketed to kids are artificially dyed, study shows

FooddyesarrayOf 810 products marketed to children, 350, or 43 percent of them, contained Red 40, Yellow 5, or other artificial food dyes, according to an article in Clinical Pediatrics.

Candy marketed to kids had the highest proportion of products with artificial dyes, 96 percent, followed by fruit-flavored snacks, 95 percent, drink mixes and powders, 90 percent, and frozen breakfast foods, 86 percent.

Researchers at the University of North Carolina Asheville catalogued foods, as well as tooth pastes, mouthwashes, and vitamins, in one large supermarket in that state, looking for cartoons, licensed characters, kid-oriented prizes, and other indications that the products were marketed to children.

They identified 66 companies behind the products, with Kraft Foods producing the most. Sixty-six percent of the 105 Kraft foods marketed to children had artificial food dyes, according to the study. In some products, dyes were used in place of healthy ingredients, with dyes such as Red 40 and Yellow 5 helping the item look like it contained carrots or orange juice.

Other research has found that dyes are associated with hyperactivity and other behavioral problems in children.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest has petitioned the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to ban Red 3, Red 40, Yellow 5, Yellow 6, Blue 1, Blue 2, Green 3, and Orange B. The European Union requires a warning label on most dyed foods indicating that such products “may have an adverse effect on activity and attention in children,” encouraging manufacturers to switch to natural or no colorings.

“While some companies have sought favorable publicity by announcing moves away from dyes and other artificial ingredients, it is clear that manufacturers such as Kraft, General Mills, and PepsiCo have a long way to go,” said Michael F. Jacobson, president of the center and co-author of the study. “These companies are all aware of the science surrounding dyes and children’s behavior, so there’s really no excuse for them to continue using these discredited, neurotoxic chemicals in food. That’s especially true when the chemicals in question are performing an exclusively cosmetic, or in some cases deceptive, function.”

“When four in 10 child-oriented products in the grocery store contain at least one artificial food dye, it becomes difficult for parents who want to eliminate dyed foods from their kids’ diets,” said UNC Asheville assistant professor Ameena Batada, lead researcher for the study. “Companies should make faster progress replacing dyes, but the FDA could make parents’ jobs a lot easier by revoking its approval for this class of chemicals.”

In January, the center criticized the FDA’s inaction on dyes in its report “Seeing Red,” saying there is growing consensus among researchers that avoiding food dyes benefits some children.

Since 2011, when the FDA last convened an advisory panel to consider dyes’ impact on children, eight detailed analyses concluded that excluding food dyes, or a diet that eliminates dyed foods and certain other foods and ingredients, reduces behavioral problems in some children, Jacobson said.

Copyright 2016, Rita R. Robison, Consumer Specialist

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