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Are food products with artificial dyes unsafe?

When consumers think of dangerous products, defective car parts and sharp-edged play equipment comes to mind. In fact, past posts have discussed unsafe products like drop-side cribs and pool drain covers. But not all unsafe products are as obvious as those mentioned.

Recently, parents had been concerned that certain food dyes were connected to attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder in some kids. In response, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration established an advisory panel to address this issue.

Food dyes are used in a number of foods that children enjoy like JELL-O, Doritos, and Pop-Tarts. The advisory panel heard testimony from parents, members of the food-industry, and scientists; the panel also looked at existing data. The conclusion was that foods with artificial dyes would not need warning labels.

Currently, there is no hard evidence that shows food dyes cause ADHD in children. However, the FDA did acknowledge that artificial food coloring can heighten some of the problems that arise in children who are diagnosed with ADHD.

Though the advisory panel has recommended no warning labels be attached, countries in Europe have already done so. One doctor, the chief of pediatric neurology at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, believes that food additives can have a neurological effect on kids. However, there is no additional information in the article about that specific statement.

Any product that is causing neurological problems in children should be a concern for parents. Neurological damage can affect a child's growth and behavior over time.

This is not the first time that food dyes have been a health concern. In the 1970's, people were scared that Red No. 2 caused cancer.

Source: Bloomberg Businessweek online, "FDA Panel Delays Action on Dyes Used in Foods," Steven Reinberg, 01 April 2011

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