Would YOUR Children Eat Gray Jello?

Sasha Brown-Worsham

New research is suggesting that food dye may exacerbate hyper activity in children who are already prone to that sort of behavior. Last month, the FDA was even considering putting warning labels on foods that contain them so parents and caregivers would be better informed.

Normally I dismiss this stuff as BS. In this case, I think it's just more fuel for the reasons we should really be watching what we feed our children. Unfortunately.

Though advocacy groups who want the warning label may have lost the battle at the FDA hearing discussing the labels, they're finally making headway in a "war" that has been ongoing for decades.

In 1950, children became sick after eating Halloween candy that was made with Orange No. 1 dye, and the FDA banned it following testing that proved it was toxic (TOXIC!!). A quarter of a century later, in 1976, the agency banned Red No. 2 because it was suspected to be carcinogenic. And even though it was then replaced by Red No. 40, when I was growing up in the 1980s, everyone went on and on about the red M&M's and how dangerous they were.

Many of the artificial colorings used today were approved by the FDA in 1931, including Blue No. 1, Yellow No. 5, and Red No. 3. At first such dyes were made from coal tar, but are now made from petroleum products. I'm not sure if THAT makes anyone feel better at all.

Poeple are starting to really examine what is in the artificial dyes ... with good reason!

FDA staff scientists said that children's existing behavioral issues may be “exacerbated by exposure to a number of substances in food, including, but not limited to, synthetic color additives.”

The problem is children (and just about everyone else) gravitate toward color. My children want the "purple Popsicle" or the "green fruit chews" or the "orange cheese." They never want the clear Jello or the gray Popsicle. Even the white mac and cheese was a hard sell.

Naturally the processed food industry is fighting back. Kantha Shelke, a food chemist and spokeswoman for the Institute of Food Technologists, told The New York Times: “Would we really want to ban everything when only a small percentage of us are sensitive?"

For many parents, there is the added challenge of finding the time to read the labels of everything they buy. Now, granted, most of us should be doing this anyway, but it's easier to have a system or something obvious that catches our attention. Obviously brightly colored food likely didn't get that way naturally, so the first line of defense is just our vision.

But also, this is why I will continue to shop at Whole Foods even though it's more expensive than the average grocery store. As we get further and further down the path of awareness in this country, a grocery store that flat-out refuses to sell such products is looking more and more appealing.

Do you take this seriously?

Image via ms.Tea/Flickr

Read More