Babies Online - The Blog

Food for thought…

What’s in your food?
A primer on artificial food colorings.

In part one of this series, the issue of studies relating artificial food colorings and artificial additives presenting a link to childhood hyperactivity was explored. In this part, we look at artificial food coloring.

The list of artificial food coloring studied included tetrazine (FD&C yellow no. 5/European food code E102); sunset yellow (FD&C yellow no. 6/E110); quinoline yellow (FD&C Yellow No. 10/E104); carmoisine (Food Red 3/E122); and ponceau 4R (Food Red 7/E124).

All of these are considered color additives by the FDA, which by definition are: “any dye, pigment or substance that can impart color when added or applied to a food, drug, or cosmetic, or to the human body.” And according to the FDA, they are added to food “for many reasons, including to offset color loss due to storage or processing of foods and to correct natural variations in food color.”

Anyone who has made guacamole from scratch for example knows that after about a half hour, it loses that rich avocado green color, whereas from a commercial mix, it stays green even long after it has grown a moldy fuzz – all thanks to artificial color additives.

While coloring additives have been heavily monitored and regulated since 1960 and the FDA believes that they are safe, but the recent research may indeed prove otherwise because “both the Food Additives and Color Additives Amendments include a provision which prohibits the approval of an additive if it is found to cause cancer in humans or animals.” This statement makes it seem as if the FDA only raises concern once an additive is found to be carcinogenic – a growing epidemic of childhood hyperactivity is not enough to make revisions or adjustments.

The problem is that while manufacturers can only use the regulated amounts of coloring additives in their products, there are thousands of products that we consume daily that contain these “small, regulated amounts.” Consider this: the ten largest companies that make our food use artificial colorings regularly. After how many sippy cups of juice, bags of candy, boxes of cereal, cookies and other snacks that are not whole foods consumed in one day can we be sure that those ‘small, regulated amounts’ are still safe when combined? The FDA even asserts that food additives (including color additives) are in cereals, snacks, beverages and oral cosmetics/personal health care items such as toothpaste. While we don’t want to be alarmist, it might be a good time to take stock in what’s in our pantries and cabinets to find out just what we are consuming and consider alternative measures to give our kids a healthier start, even as early as in utero.

Learn more:

Part three will look at artificial sweeteners and non-coloring additives.

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