Artificial Food Dye: Delicious or Dangerous?

Artificial food dyes under scrutiny for possible link to hyperactivity.

ByABC News
April 1, 2011, 9:54 AM

April 1, 2011 -- Kim Snedden was at her wits end. Her son Sam was constantly frustrated and angry, easily distracted and annoyed

"There was just a lot of frustration in the house, a lot of tears, a lot of misunderstood feelings," she said. "People felt under siege, they felt sad all the time. They didn't know why and a lot of times, it seems like my kids... like wires were crossed."

At the suggestion of a neighbor in 2008 Snedden decided to try eliminating foods with artificial dyes from her family's diet. She purged the house of products like fruit loops, pop-tarts and Cheetos and refused to feed her family anything with "Red 40", "Yellow 5" or other manmade dyes in the ingredients list.

"For maybe two days we went dye free and on the third day I had a new family and I knew that was the answer. In three days I had a whole new scenario at home," she said.

Sam, now 13, was doing better in school and his moods had improved drastically.

"Sam before was grumpy, [had] headaches, couldn't concentrate. Now I remember everything, you know, it's like normal," he said.

Eliminating dye does not mean eliminating sugar, Snedden said. Naturally colored fruit jellies, dye-free "Fruitful O's" – similar to Froot Loops-- and Frito Lay chips are still fair game.

"You don't need to go to any special lengths. You just need to, again, get your hand off the Doritos -- the bright orange -- and stick them on the other Frito Lay products that now are very dye free," Snedden said.

The safety of artificial food dyes has come under serious scrutiny lately at the federal level. The Food and Drug Administration's Food Advisory Committee met Thursday in response to a 2008 letter from the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) urging the food regulatory committee to ban eight of the nine FDA-approved dyes. Citing a lack of scientific evidence to prove their connection to increased hyperactivity, the panel voted Thursday 11 to 3 against banning the dyes.