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A rainbow of chemical colors

(article, Culinate staff)

Back in 2009, Grist contributor Tom Laskawy penned a blog post about artificial food coloring, noting that when Britain banned such colorants, major food companies switched to natural colors without much fuss:

bq. General Mills, Kellogg, Kraft, and McDonalds all replaced the harmful dyes in their British products. Even Fanta now uses pumpkin and carrot extracts to color their soda orange in the UK. And you know what? The world didn't end. Nor did the companies go out of business. There's not even any indication that eliminating dyes caused price increases. In fact, no one really noticed, which begs the question of why the colors are used in the first place. 

Now, Laskawy recently noted on Grist, comes an Australian study linking chemical colorings to behavioral disorders in adolescents. Sadly, the study is just the latest in a series looking at the connections between chemical dyes and hyperactivity disorders.

For a nice visual look at the problem, check out the Fooducate blog's '"poison of chemical colors, along with a quick summary of the recent report condemning artificial food dyes as allergenic and carcinogenic as well as dodgy for kids by food-industry watchdog the Center for Science in the Public Interest.

Bans can't do it all, however, as the CSPI noted mournfully:

bq. Back in 1985, the acting commissioner of the FDA said that Red 3, one of the lesser-used dyes, “has clearly been shown to induce cancer” and was “of greatest public health concern.” However, Secretary of Agriculture John R. Block pressed the Department of Health and Human Services not to ban the dye, and he apparently prevailed — notwithstanding the Delaney Amendment that forbids the use of in foods of cancer-causing color additives. Each year about 200,000 pounds of Red 3 are poured into such foods as Betty Crocker’s Fruit Roll-Ups and ConAgra’s Kid Cuisine frozen meals. Since 1985 more than five million pounds of the dye have been used.