(NaturalNews) Evidence continues to emerge that artificial colors cause hyperactivity in children, but the FDA remains resistant to taking action. The agency will hold public hearings on the issue from March 30-31.
Artificial colors made from coal tar or petroleum were first developed in the 1850s, and nearly 200 were being used in consumer products by the time the U.S. government began regulating these additives in the 1960s. After safety testing, only nine colors remained cleared for use. Yet as early as the 1970s, researchers were raising concerns that the colors might cause hyperactivity. In 2004, a groundbreaking study in The Lancet provided such strong evidence for this link that the British Food Standards Agency recommended that parents reduce or eliminate artificial colors from their children's' diets.
The European Parliament has since voted to ban the colorings from foods intended for small children and infants, and requires a warning label on all other products containing them. The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) has called on the FDA to follow suit, or even ban the colors outright.
"What's the benefit? To make junk food even more appealing to children than it already is?" CSPI Executive Director Michael Jacobson said.
Artificial colors are largely used to restore color to foods rendered pale and unappealing-looking by industrial processing, or to make them brighter or give them specific colors for marketing purposes.
"I don't think the dyes are good for anything," said Stanford University pediatrics professor Alan Greene, a signatory of the CSPI petition. "The only benefit is to trick you into eating the food or to make it look healthier than it is."
Michael Pollen echoes this sentiment in his book In Defense of Food.
"One of the problems with the products of food science is that, as Joan Gussow has pointed out, they lie to your body," he writes. "Their artificial colors and flavors and synthetic sweeteners and novel fats confound the senses we rely on to assess new foods and prepare our bodies to deal with them. Foods that lie leave us with little choice but to eat by the numbers, consulting labels rather than our senses."
Although natural food colors exist, they are nearly always more expensive than the coal- and petroleum-based colors.