For decades, scientists and doctors have debated whether artificial food dyes commonly used to add color to processed foods might cause adverse health effects, particularly in children.
Dr. Ben Feingold, an allergist, was one of the first prominent doctors to suggest a relationship between diet and behavioral problems in children, in the 1970′s. After observing positive changes in both allergic symptoms and general behavior in patients who cut artificial food dyes and other food additives out of their diets, he recommended that children with behavioral disorders such as ADHD adhere to the Feingold Diet, which eliminates foods containing artificial food dyes and preservatives.
Since then there has been a great deal of scientific debate over the effectiveness of Dr. Feingold’s plan for treating behavioral issues in children. But in 2004, the results of a British study of preschool-aged children strongly indicated that foods containing artificial food coloring can cause hyperactive behavior in all children, including healthy children without ADHD or other disorders.
A second British study in 2007, which tested both preschool and elementary school age children, reached the same conclusion — parents and educators reported significantly more hyperactive behavior in children who regularly consumed beverages containing artificial food dyes and preservatives than those who did not.
The growing evidence that artificial food coloring can cause adverse health effects in children caused the European Union’s Food Standards Agency to call for a ban on six common artificial food colorants in 2008; European countries have been phasing out the use of unnecessary artificial dyes in food ever since.
But in the United States, calls to review the safety of artificial food dyes by concerned parents, food safety experts and consumer advocacy organizations like the Center for Science in the Public Interest have gone unanswered by the federal government for years, until now.
In March 2011, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration will hold a public hearing to discuss whether enough scientific evidence exists to prove that artificial food coloring is harmful to children’s health. Ahead of the hearing, American citizens are invited to contact the FDA with their concerns.