Don’t let this week’s New York Times headline fool you: “Artificial Dye Safe to Eat, Panel Says.” The “expert panel” convened by the Food and Drug Administration was given the task to re-examine the link between hyperactivity in children and synthetic food colorings found in such products as Froot Loops cereal, Pop Tarts, Jell-O, and Minute Maid Lemonade. They were requested to vote this week on a possible revision of the FDA’s regulation regarding the synthetic additives, after the agency responded to a petition by the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI).
For those of you in the health-conscious crowd whose hopes may have been kindled a couple of days ago by this other deadline, “F.D.A. Panel to Consider Warnings for Artificial Food Colorings,” bear in mind that
- the panel voted 8 to 6 against banning the dyes or recommending that more information about them be added to food labels. In other words, 43 percent of the medical and environmental “experts” have a dissenting opinion.
- the decision is based on the alleged lack of iron-clad scientific evidence that food dyes systematically cause hyperactivity in children, and not on the evidence that no causal link exists whatsoever. In other words, the burden of proof is put on those who have the health of kids (and adults) at heart, not on the food industry that pumps its processed food for kids with petroleum-based dyes. Never mind that the same panelists acknowledged that the chemicals can worsen symptoms in children already prone to behavioral problems.
Unsurprisingly, “the Grocery Manufacturers Association [NOTE: the association that promotes and represents the world's food, beverage and consumer products companies] hailed the votes”, according to the New York Times.
The good news, brought to us by a somewhat better balanced article in the Los Angeles Times, is that the panel of medical and environmental experts agreed that enough uncertainty exists to justify more research. Just as importantly, the debate about synthetic food dyes has been brought back in the headlines.