F.D.A. May Add Warning Labels To Foods With Artificial Colorings

There's a possibility that brightly-colored staples of the American child's diet, including Jell-O, Froot Loops, and Pop-Tarts will now come with a warning. The New York Times reports that the F.D.A. has asked a panel to review evidence on the link between artificial colorings and health problems in children.

For years the F.D.A has insisted that artificial colorings are totally safe, and it still says the dyes aren't harmful to most children. However, in a recent report F.D.A. scientists acknowledged that some research suggests children with behavioral disorders may have their conditions "exacerbated by exposure to a number of substances in food, including, but not limited to, synthetic color additives."

Both Kraft Foods Inc. and the Grocery Manufacturers Association released statements saying all dyes used in their products are safe, but some scientists have claimed artificial dyes increase hyperactivity in children. In 2008 the Center for Science in the Public Interest said some parents are unaware of the possible link, so "the appropriate public health approach is to remove those dangerous and unnecessary substances from the food supply."

Though consumer advocacy groups have been pushing for a ban on artificial dyes for years, this isn't up for consideration. At most, warnings like those about products that contain nuts would be added to packaging. But, the F.D.A. simply considering the issue is seen as progress, even though in all likelihood nothing will be done. The Times explains:

The panel will almost certainly ask that more research on the subject be conducted, but such calls are routinely ignored. Research on pediatric behaviors can be difficult and expensive to conduct since it often involves regular and subjective assessments of children by parents and teachers who should be kept in the dark about the specifics of the test. And since the patents on the dyes expired long ago, manufacturers have little incentive to finance such research themselves.

Well, that's encouraging. Why devote time and money to figuring out if artificial dyes really are linked to behavioral problems when we can have another round of pointless debate and continue knocking back Twinkies?

F.D.A. Panel to Consider Warnings For Artificial Food Colorings [NYT]