March 31, 2011— -- SILVER SPRING, Md. -- Judging from the data and the discussion during the first day of an FDA panel meeting on food dyes, it appears likely that juices, candies, cereals, yogurts, and hundreds of other everyday foods will maintain their brighter-than-bright hues.
The FDA Food Advisory Committee is reviewing data on whether dyes used in food cause hyperactivity in kids, and will vote Thursday on whether the agency should take action on dyes, which could include banning them altogether.
FDA reviewers said there isn't enough evidence to show a link between chemical color additives and hyperactivity. However, for "certain susceptible children," such as those with ADHD and other behavioral problems, their condition might be exacerbated by a number of substances in food, including artificial food dyes, FDA reviewers said in a 2010 memorandum on the subject.
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The Food Advisory Committee -- a panel of outside experts in nutrition, toxicology, food science, immunology, and psychology -- is meeting at the request of the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), which petitioned the FDA in 2008 to ban eight of the nine FDA-approved food dyes, including Yellow No. 5, Red 40, and Blue No. 1. The one coloring that the CSPI is not petitioning to ban is Citrus Red No. 3, which is used only to make the skins of oranges a more vibrant color.
The panel focused much of its attention Wednesday on a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, crossover trial conducted in England that enrolled 153 3-year-olds, recruited from nurseries, preschool groups, and playgroups, and 144 8- and 9-year-olds, recruited from the Southampton school system.
For the study, the children drank two different mixes of fruit juice spiked with food dye and sodium benzoate and later consumed a placebo fruit juice drink without artificial dye or sodium benzoate.
One of the authors of that study, Jim Stevenson, PhD, of the University of Southampton, told the FDA panel that the study concluded that artificial colors (together with the sodium benzoate) increased the average level of hyperactivity in 3-year-olds and in 8- and 9-year-olds.