Euphoria’s Blog for Green Mamas

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The Scoop on Food Colorings July 24, 2008

Filed under: Healthy Living — Rachel @ 2:42 pm
Tags: ,

My mother has always said that food colorings are bad.  I remember feeling a little put-out that we couldn’t have fruit roll-ups, CapriSun drinks, and green mint chocolate chip ice cream like my friends.  Turns out she was right… again.  Studies show that food colorings probably cause increased hyperactivity and allergic reactions in children.  That’s why major food companies are starting to make changes, at least in the UK where the dangers of food colorings are widely known.

Here’s an excerpt from Healthy Child Healthy World’s blog, “An Uncolorful Truth”:

In a recent report by ABC news, mother of four Robyn O’Brien nearly lost her 9 month old baby to an allergic response to scrambled eggs. This harrowing experience prompted her to inspect what she was feeding her children. At the onset, O’Brien did not necessarily know she was in for a an education on food allergies. But she soon learned that artificial dyes used in sugary cereals, candies, dairy products, and other items marketed solely at children may be, in part, responsible for the spike in children’s hyperactive reactions to certain foods.

A 2004 double-blind study published in the Archives of Disease in Childhood measured the effects of food colorings and sodium benzonate (another common additive) on hyperactivity in preschool-aged children. The results indicated that those given foods containing the artificial colorings exhibited markedly more hyperactive behaviors than those with diets absent of the ingredients. According to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology, about 4 percent of the US population has food allergies. Ten years ago, that figure was believed to be only 1 percent. How has the number grown so dramatically?

What further disturbed O’Brien was that this alarming increase in allergic reports seems to primarily affect children in the United States, as consumers regularly ingest additives and dyes in food. But these same ingredients… have been removed from the same foods in other countries. For example, last year Mars Inc responded to pressure from the British government by removing the artificial coloring in their famous Starburst and Skittles candies after a British study highlighted the effects that those additives have on the hyperactivity of children. Additionally, Kraft Foods Inc did away with the same additives in their British version of Lunchables.

While the U.K. has taken drastic steps to increase the legitimacy of their foods, the U.S. has not been as candid. In an effort to combat this apathy, Robyn O’Brien launched allergykids.com that serves as a parental resource and forum for all concerned individuals seeking more information on this pressing issue… At AllergyKids, one of the main concerns is industry funding ties between agri-chemical companies and certain pediatric allergists who have served on the FDA. In the past, those pediatricians have testified to the safety of MSG, aspartame, glutamate, and genetically engineered proteins; therefore, the concern is that these “experts” may prevent full disclosure of the harmful effects of food dyes.

In her contribution to Healthy Child Healthy World: Creating a Cleaner, Greener, Safer Home, O’Brien stated that, as she researched her questions on food allergies, she found that the junk food industry underwrites a lot of the research on the claims made about the detrimental effects of food dyes. The food industry is not the only entity claiming that the assertions behind artificial colorings are false. Dr. Andrew Adesman, who represents the Speakers Bureau for Novartis and McNeil Pharmaceuticals, stated that, while it is better to eat less artificially produced foods, it is irresponsible to suggest that the additives are the major cause behind hyperactivity. It is interesting to note that McNeil Pharmaceuticals is responsible for the production and manufacturing of ADHD drugs.

So who can we believe? Are we getting the full story behind the negative consequences lurking in the ingredients of our children’s favorite snacks? What can we offer them as an alternative? O’Brien, the self-starting, entrepreneurial “mother on a mission,” conducted her own experiment. She decided that she was going to cook like a mom in Europe (avoiding all processed foods), essentially wanting to see if it would have any effect on the behavior of her children. The results were staggering: her children slept better, were able to concentrate more fully in school, and even positively improved their behavior. What is her advice? Opt for organic food as often as possible, avoid anything that is genetically modified, and do not eat any foods that contain ingredients you are unable to pronounce.

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