American Kids Get Artificial Food Dyes, British Kids Get All-Natural Dyes

Written by Katherine Martinko

Processed foods such as Skittles, Starbursts, Nutri-Grain Bars and Lunchables might look the same in an American grocery store as they do in a British one, but they’re not the same. The American versions contain the artificial food dyes that we’ve unfortunately become used to seeing on ingredient lists, while the U.K. versions, made by the exact same companies, have replaced those risky food dyes with natural additives, such as beetroot powder, annatto and paprika extract. Red No. 40, Yellow No. 6, and Blue No. 1 no longer have a place in many processed foods sold in the U.K., but they continue having a heyday over here in North America.

How is such a double standard maintained? It stems from a study that took place in 2007 called the Southampton Study, which was funded by the federal food safety agency in the U.K. Its results indicated a link between hyperactivity in children and certain food additives. In response, the U.K. branches of Kraft, Wal-Mart, Coca-Cola and Mars, as well as U.S. companies that export to the U.K., removed these harmful ingredients from their foods without making the changes back here in North America. Then the U.K.’s Wal-Mart equivalent, Asda, voluntarily removed monosodium glutamate (MSG), aspartame and hydrogenated fat from 9000 of its own label products, ingredients that weren’t even part of the study. This shows an eagerness on the companies’ parts to clean up their acts for U.K. consumers, yet they haven’t done the same for Americans.

A different kind of relationship exists between these food companies and their consumers in the U.K. than in the U.S. I disagree with one person’s suggestion that thecompanies care less about the lives of American kids than they do about British kids when doing their cost-benefit analyses. After all, if the companies truly cared about kids’ health, they wouldn’t be making the products they do. The double standard is more indicative of where a nation’s priorities lie and the fact that money always talks. The U.K., which subsidizes health care, is more invested in preserving the health of its citizens. That’s why its federal food safety agency would fund something like the Southampton study. In the U.S, where there is profit to be made off sick Americans and the government doesn’t foot hefty medical bills, there is less incentive to take care of citizens by ensuring the removal of artificial dyes.

It’s no wonder that American parents are up in arms about the “rainbow of risks,” as the Center for Science in the Public Interest calls these food dyes. It would be nice to know that processed snacks are free from additives, for those rare occasions when my kids eat them at someone else’s house. But I can’t help thinking that the debate about who’s to blame for the double standard is pointless because it sidesteps the bigger problem that kids shouldn’t be eating processed foods in the first place. It doesn’t matter what companies put in foods if parents choose not to buy them. No quantity of ‘natural additives’ is going to turn them into a healthy snack.

The food companies won’t change unless forced to. The U.S. government isn’t in a hurry to make it happen, so it’s up to American consumers to demand the changes they want to see. A widespread boycott of all foods containing dyes could probably do a lot to catch the companies’ attention and make them reconsider their production methods.

This post was originally published in TreeHugger

Photo Credit: Michelle Tribe

114 comments

Jim Ven
Jim Ven10 days ago

thanks for sharing.

Margaret Goodman
Margaret Goodman3 years ago

Tree Hugger wrote "
The U.K., which subsidizes health care, is more invested in preserving the health of its citizens. That’s why its federal food safety agency would fund something like the Southampton study. In the U.S, where there is profit to be made off sick Americans and the government doesn’t foot hefty medical bills, there is less incentive to take care of citizens by ensuring the removal of artificial dyes."

So, in the UK and Europe, the government has to pay more when its citizens are unhealthy. In the United States, the government passes the costs as much as possible to its citizens.

I think this disparity helps explain why there is research in Europe, but not in the United States, on the nutritional value of GMOs and why Europe demands labelling of GMOs and sometimes outlaws them. The European research has shown that -surprise!- lab animals fare poorly on GMO food.

U. S. citizens are unwitting guinea pigs being fed "frankenfood" because the corporations have bought our politicians and regulatory agencies.

Maria S.
Maria S.3 years ago

This is very sad to say the least. I was born and raised in the U.S and always believed in anything produced there. I use to buy Fruit Loops and other U.S cereals for my children when they were younger. As a weekend treat. Their weekday breakfast was simple bread & honey or homemade jam.
I do believe that back then (20 so yrs ago) most if not all those products were made differently and did not have chemicals and dyes like they have today.
It's very unfortunate that money speeks more than any of us do!

Donna Ferguson
Donna F.3 years ago

profits over people is disgusting!

Christine W.
Christine W.3 years ago

Thanks for sharing.

June Lacy
June Lacy3 years ago

I AM NOT SURPRISED AT ALL, REMEMBER IN HISTORY AMERICA IS A BRITISH EXPERIMENT.....SO , SO SAD

Dennis D.
Dennis D.3 years ago

Lets see: UK people priority.. US Profits priority.

Ahh I see the difference. When the government is made responsible for making sure that people are healthy. Only then is there any thought on a government side to assure that the citizens are eating healthier foods.

Another good reason we need to take another step to a single payer system.

Danuta Watola
Danuta Watola3 years ago

Thanks for sharing!

Wendy G.
Wendy G.3 years ago

We're being told these days there is 'something' in 'everything'. Trouble is they keep changing their minds about it all. We only live once so enjoy it while it lasts.

Don Swanz
Don Swanz3 years ago

As with so many previous exposes of this nature; nothing will change unless we band together and force this companies to change as well as refusing to buy any of their products with artificial dyes. We not only have to educate ourselves; but our Local and State leaders and our children as well. Don and I CAN! :-))