FDA Considers (and rejects) Warning Labels on Artificial Food Coloring

(Late breaking– the FDA panel voted April 1, 2011, 8 to 6 not to require labeling on foods containing artificial food dyes. I find this troubling because the FDA had yet another chance to apply the precautionary principle to protect our families and they didn’t. Since there is some evidence that artificial food colorings increase behavior problems in children, more research should be done, but doesn’t it make sense to encourage people to limit their use while the research is being conducted? In the meantime, I recommend reading ingredient labels and looking for artificial dyes, which have to be noted, and then not buying the product if they are there.)

Many of us have been concerned about artificial food coloring for years. We remember hearing about Red dye number 3 causing cancer, and try not to give our kids much brightly colored, highly processed and packaged foods. But it is easy slip up on this, especially as kids get older. And according to the video above, the use of artificial food coloring in foods has exploded in recent years.

This news makes it even more important to reconsider. As I made my daughter’s birthday cake today, I had a choice. I’m not much of a baker, so I had two boxes of cake mix in the pantry. I looked at the ingredient list– some artitificial food colorings. No good.

So I made the cake from scratch. I ran out of time and used some icing from a container, which contained some artificial coloring, but it was the best I could do.

I’m glad the FDA is considering putting a warning label on food that contains artificial food coloring. It should be clear to everyone what is in the foods we eat and how the synthetic ingredients might effect our children. This serves as a reminder to me to make sure to avoid artificial food coloring as much as possible.

I’m proud of grocers such as our local co-op, Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods for refusing to sell any foods containing artificial food coloring.

When you consider how these ingredients effect kids with behavior problems, it reminds me how much food can effect our children, and our lives. If artificial food colorings improve the symptoms of a child with a behavior disorder, wouldn’t it be safe to say it could improve the attentive and cognitive performance of all children? Of course more research is necessary, but taking the precautionary approach here, by eliminating (or lessening) artificial food coloring in our food, makes sense.

What do you think? Are you lessening your family’s intake of artificial food coloring based on this news? What do you use to decorate your birthday cakes? Would warning labels help you?

9 Responses to FDA Considers (and rejects) Warning Labels on Artificial Food Coloring

  1. Anonymous April 3, 2011 at 12:33 pm #

    Quite honestly, although it does not surprise me that the FDA continues to FAIL the people, and instead SERVE &/or Sellout to Corporations!! It pisses me off that the FDA & Corporations are knowingly and intentionally exposing our children to KNOWN carcinogens!! HELLO?! Let alone the impact it has on their Endocrine and Neurological systems. Oh and it is already BANNED in about 23 other countries!! But we can’t even get a simple warning label?!!! WE HAVE THE RIGHT TO KNOW!!! How else can you make an “informed decision”?!



    We generally make our own organic cupcakes, icing etc or buy them from Whole Foods, as my child is highly allergic to artificial colors. They carry organic “India Tree” dyes and for the 1st time ever my daughter got to enjoy yummy, beautiful purple/green and blue icing!! 😉

  2. kaye April 3, 2011 at 4:29 pm #

    It’s not that hard to avoid artificial colourings if you make things from scratch. Doesn’t stop the laws being inadequate and skewed in favour of the producer, though.

  3. Illysa Izenberg April 3, 2011 at 7:25 pm #

    Two years ago this month our doctor recommended we take all food colorings and preservatives out of our son’s diet — he has an auditory processing disorder and a slight attention deficit.

    We saw a dramatic difference within a week, and we didn’t even eat much junk! We know so many kids who take a lot of medication and then eat colored cereal for breakfast, candy from the machine during school, and then a colored snack at home. I wish their parents would just try to remove the colors and see what a difference it would make.

    BTW, years ago I used to be a big fan of special birthday cakes — even took a cake decorating class, got a big kit with lots of colors, etc. For my son’s birthdays these last two years I had to be creative to make a special cake with only white and brown to frost with (regular and chocolate frostings). Yes, I know there are dye-free colors, but they’re very expensive & I’ve heard that if you want anything more than pastel you’re not going to like the taste. Pastel is not going to do it for a boys’ cake, so for me, not worth it.

    The vast majority of our food is now homemade. It is time consuming, but it so worth it for my kids.

    Look up feingold.org for more information on how to live without dyes and preservatives. Good luck!

  4. Illysa Izenberg April 3, 2011 at 7:27 pm #

    One thing that never gets mentioned is that while there is a small amount of dye in each item, there are so many items given to kids with dyes that it all adds to a whole lot: toothpaste, hand soap, cleaning solutions, laundry soap, and more. It’s not just food.

  5. Karyn April 3, 2011 at 8:33 pm #

    I try and use organic as much as possible if I am not cooking from scratch. This just emphasises to me that I cannot trust government bodies (whomever they may be) to do my job for me – at least do it to the standards I consider acceptable.

    For this reason, I read and research anything on a package I buy. I wont say my son doesn’t eat out and ingest some ‘nasties’ from time to time, that’s the world we live in (unfortunately), but on my watch its 100% organic and fresh baked/cooked and if its from a package at very least its organic.

    That’s the best I can do for now.
    Love your blog by the way!

  6. Katy Farber April 3, 2011 at 9:03 pm #

    Anonymous– thanks for your comment. I am disappointed too. It shows me our powerful corporations and the multi-national food lobby is once again. Thanks for the tip about India Tree dyes, I’ll have to look for them!

    By the way, you can tell the FDA committee was split on this— 8 to 6. That signals to be we all must be very careful with these ingredients in our food supply.

    Karyn, thanks so much for your comment! I have the same philosophy when it comes to food. Sometimes I am more vigilant than others. Mostly, though, my girls eat organic fruits and veggies, whole grains, and homemade or organic store bought sauces. We just try our best, right?

    I’m glad you enjoy the blog! Please come back and visit often. 🙂

  7. Courtney @ Bundle of Wonder April 4, 2011 at 2:24 pm #

    It is disappointing that the FDA doesn’t step up, but I’m trying to stay positive that in the near future things will change. Until then, we shop at Trader Joes when we can or at our local market where we can get natural or organic foods. I try my best to keep out the artificial foods, but it’s not always easy.
    My daughter turned a year old last week. I made homemade cupcakes and a cake. My mom made the icing and we used blueberries to color it.
    And thanks for your blog! It’s very useful and informative!

  8. Michelle April 4, 2011 at 2:54 pm #

    Unfortunately, the FDA’s reaction does not surprise me. While I am extremely picky and read the label on everything I purchase, a warning label for food dyes would attract the attention of many people that really have no idea it’s an issue.

    I make a lot of homemade foods as well (mostly without color), but I don’t have kids yet so I’m not sure what I’ll do in the future! It’s just unfortunate and wrong that kid’s health is not put first when it comes to this type of issue. I like the idea of warning to at least limit consumption while more research is done!

  9. Gerry @ Camp Labels April 5, 2011 at 1:22 pm #

    Kids love colorful foods and this can be deceiving because we don’t know what’s in those fancy-looking colorful food that we feed our kids.

    Definitely warning labels can help us become intelligent consumers and protect our children for toxic ingredients these corporations mix into their food products.

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