In the face of emerging evidence that artificial food dyes may contribute to hyperactivity among children, the FDA is reviewing documentation to decide whether or not to ban certain added colors from processed foods nationwide. Although fluorescent foods are still ubiquitous (picture the cereal aisle at your local grocery store) many Americans are beginning to approach processed foods with increasing wariness in the wake of Michelle Obama’s anti-obesity campaign.
Europe has long-standing bans against many of the dyes we ingest on a daily basis. Even those foods we deem “healthy” such as low fat yogurt and granola bars often rely on artificial coloring to increase their aesthetic appeal. Quaker Oatmeal Squares cereal – a seemingly innocuous breakfast choice – lists whole oat flour and whole wheat flour as the first and second ingredients. Despite this healthy start, both yellow 5 and yellow 6 make an appearance further down the list. Additionally, kid-centric yogurts in enticing flavors like Strawberry Explosion and Triple Berry Blast often contain red-40, an artificial coloring agent with links to behavioral problems in subsets of children.
Although the jury is still out as to whether or not these dyes are adversely affecting children’s behavior, the backlash against artificial coloring has spurred numerous manufacturers to add neutral versions of popular items (for example, “kool aid invisible” and "white cheddar mac and cheese"). Regardless of the FDA’s conclusion, increased awareness of this issue is a good stepping stone to help provide children nationwide with healthier, more transparent options.