CSPI takes on food dyes

Artificial Food Dyes

As you probably already know, I’m a huge fan of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a food health and safety watchdog group that takes no industry financing or advertising revenue.

This morning they released a report entitled Food Dyes: A Rainbow of Risks, and they’re pushing the FDA to ban all artificial coloring in foods.

CSPI asserts that many dyes pose risks of cancer, hyperactivity in children, and allergies.

Color additives are held to a higher standard by the FDA than other food additives, at least on paper.  They require “convincing evidence that establishes with reasonable certainty that no harm will result from the intended use of the color additive.”

CSPI, therefore, is urging the FDA to ban all dyes because the scientific studies do not provide convincing evidence of safety — but instead provide significant evidence of harm.

Once again, Europe is a step ahead:  Britain is working on phasing out dyes by the end of the year, and in July the EU will be requiring warning labels on packages that contain dyes (which will likely result in dyes being phased out by manufacturers).

Food dyes do nothing except make food more visually appealing, and therefore are really just a marketing tool.

(Although I’m the first to agree that visual presentation of food strongly influences taste and enjoyment, we’re mostly talking about processed and packaged food products, not upscale restaurants and whole foods.  Then again, some whole foods, like oranges, are sometimes dyed as well.)

This doesn’t mean the end to food coloring, of course, since there are myriad natural options (carrot, beet, and blueberry juices; paprika; etc. etc.).

Banning artificial food dyes certainly seems like a no-brainer, and I’m hopeful CSPI will be able to make some progress.

CSPI’s Food Dyes Website

Food Dyes: A Rainbow of Risks (Full report; 58-page PDF)

Summary of Studies on Food Dyes (One page PDF)

Photo by rj.thompson.

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