Thursday, January 1, 2009

A great article

Dye Dilemma
By Karen A. Stephenson

Color additives have long been used as a means of enhancing the aesthetic value of food and beverages and, in fact, archaeological evidence dates the use of them in foods to at least 1500 B.C. Many food coloring agents (food dyes) used today have been linked to cause cancer, hyperactivity and inattentiveness in children and asthma.
According to the Center for Science in the Public Interest, the dye industry produces five times more dye than it did fifty years ago. There's no denying that we are naturally attracted to color and this has played a major role in how food is unnaturally processed and marketed in developed nations since World War II. Many countries around the world have recognized the dangers of synthetic food coloring and have acted accordingly. Other countries such as the United States and Canada have not been as responsive in helping to protect the health of their citizens.
The following is a list of the most commonly used synthetic food colors. They are listed with their code number (FD&C and EU) and common name. Some suspected side effects, where they are found and other information is listed.
  • FD&C Yellow #5: E102 (tartrazine): breakfast cereals, jams, snack foods, packaged noodles, soups, dry drink powders, candy, pudding. May cause palpitations, hives and itching in children, restlessness, sleep disturbances, asthma and allergic reactions. This is derived from petroleum distillates
  • FD&C Yellow #6(sunset yellow): cereals, snack foods, desserts, drinks, canned fish, some medications, ice cream, bakery items. Possible side effects are allergies, abdominal discomfort, hyperactivity, kidney tumors and nausea. This is derived from petroleum distillates
  • FD&C Blue #1 (brilliant blue): dairy products, jellies, icings, syrups, extracts, drinks and candies. Cause of death in some elderly patients due to enteral (tube) feeding. Banned in many countries but not the U.S. or Canada. This is derived from petroleum distillates
  • FD&C Blue #2: E132 (indigo carmine): baked goods, ice cream, cereals, snack food and confections. May cause high blood pressure and nausea. Suspicion of brain tumors when tested on animals. Used in textile dyeing and printing. Banned in the EU. Derived from petroleum distillates
  • FD&C Red #2: E123 (amaranth): cake mixes. Documented cases of birth defects. Extreme small amounts have caused birth defects, stillbirths, fetal deaths and sterility in rats. Banned in most of the world, still used in Australia
  • FD&C Red #3: E127 (erythrosine): used in dental labs, printing inks and food dye. Found in candies, baked goods, condiments and snack foods. Has estrogen-like growth stimulatory properties. Significant risk factor in human breast carcinogenesis. Possible thyroid tumors and chromosomal damage.
  • FD&C Red #4: E124 (ponceau): donuts, orange soda, tattoo ink, cosmetics. National Cancer Institute reports that precredine, a chemical used in the preparation of this dye is carcinogenic in animals
  • FD&C Red #40 (Allura Red): snack foods. Can cause tumors, lymphomas and adhd in children
  • Citrus Red # 2: Injected into the skin of oranges to make them look “more” orange. Has caused cancer in animals

Some Evidence

  • In February 2007, The Brazilian Journal of Biology published their findings on tartrazine (yellow dye). They found a nitrous derivative known to cause allergic reactions such as asthma and hives. Tartrazine belongs to the ‘azo class’ of food dyes, and is also a possible carcinogen
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  • In a 1994 study completed at the Royal Children's Hospital in Victoria, Australia, it was reported that there were behavioral changes including irritability, restless, and sleep disturbances associated with the ingestion of tartrazine in children
  • The Food Advisory Consumer Service in South Africa warns about the use of Sudan Red 1, also known as Yellow 14. It is an industrial, red, soluble dye used legally to color a number of non-food products such as waxes, floor polishes and solvents. It has been shown to cause cancer in rats and, although its use is not allowed in foods, the dye has been found in food products such as chili powder. Related dyes that are similarly misused are Sudan 2,3 and 4
  • A report was written by the Consumers International Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific and submitted to the World Health Organization. This report shows that in the Philippines, fifty percent of children are suffering from malnutrition. The main diet for many of these children is instant noodles containing dyes tartrazine, FD & C #6. In addition to the medical concerns expressed above, tartrazine is also a sodium salt that in addition to the other salts in these instant noodle products, many find a contributor to ill health
  • The UK Food Standards Agency commissioned two studies in 2003. Both in-depth studies concluded that food dyes adversely affect children. Some increased behavioral problems included a lack of concentration, lack of focusing, interrupting conversations, talking too much and fiddling with objects or their own body
This 2003 study coincided with results from an informal study conducted with 8 and 9 year old students at a school near Toronto, Canada in October 2008. For one week, students were asked what they ate for breakfast and their snack and lunch foods were recorded. Behaviors were monitored throughout the day. Those students who ingested a minimum of three food dyes demonstrated increased levels of lack of concentration, restlessness and fiddling with their shoes or their own body.

Professionals Speak Out
Beatice Trum Hunter, in her book ‘The Mirage of Safety: Food Additives and Federal Policy’ collected numerous statements from various professionals speaking out against the FDA in the United States:

Samuel S. Epstein, M.D. at Case Western Reserve University in Ohio believes it is preposterous that millions of dollars can go into prevention and treatment of cancer when “current FDA practice is deliberately allowing an increase in the total burden of carcinogenic elements in our human diet.”

Marvin S. Legator, Chief, Cell Biology Branch at George Washington University says, “It is one of the biggest deceptions propagated by public health officials to say that a compound … has been around for years and there is no problem. It takes 20 years of latency before you can see bladder cancer in humans.”

The late Senator Abraham S. Ribicoff stated, “The chemicals we ingest may affect more than our own health. They affect the health and vitality of future generations. The danger is that many of these chemicals may not harm us, but will later do silent violence to our children.”

The FDA in the U.S, and Health Canada in Canada are the governing bodies that decide what additives are deemed safe for human consumption. Europe, Australia and Asian countries also independently regulate what products they feel are safe for their citizens.

Unlike Canada, the FDA and EU are not as sanguine about the use of chemicals in foods. Most artificial colors have been banned in the EU, some having been banned for over two decades in certain European countries. Canada has banned the domestic sale of artificial colors that they deem hazardous but interestingly, the Canadian Health Protection Branch allows imports of foods that contain these same banned food dyes. Making things more difficult for the discerning consumer, ingredient labels on Canadian produced food and beverage products do not indicate specifically what food coloring chemical (or common name) was used in the product. Usually, only the word ‘color’ appears in the list of ingredients.

Food Dye Bans Do Not Keep People Safe
Mail Online News in England reported in July 2006 that Sudan 1 was discovered as a result of routine testing in Italy. The Food Standards Agency in England admitted that people may have been eating it for years.

On May 31, 2007 it was reported in TheStarOnline that cancer-causing rhodamine b was found in various foods in China. Rhodamine b was banned under the Food Regulation 1985 and Food and Drug Ordinance of 1952. It's used in the textile and plastics industries.

“Street Foods”, written by A.P. Simopoulos and R.V. Bhat for the World Review of Nutrition and Dietetics, report that banned colors (rhodamine b and metanil yellow) appear in many street foods in several countries. 36% of soft drinks prepared and sold by street vendors in Hanoi, Vietnam, showed banned colors. Rhodamine b and metanil yellow appear in sweet meats and candies in India. Non-food additives such as textile color agents have shown up in several food samples in street foods in Indonesia.

Every country has some bans on some synthetic food colors. The FDA was even quoted as saying “there continues to be a large number of detentions for illegal and undeclared food color additives, from approximately 35 countries.” Products such as Canadian mouse, Vietnamese sweet and sour mustards, Chinese strawberry creme filled crackers and Orange Fanta from Mexico are a few products that have been detained.

Bottom line, no matter what country, not all imports are inspected and caught immediately. Food colorants that are banned in any given country still have imports on store shelves with food and beverage items containing the banned substance. Trade agreements should not override health issues. In order for bans to be effective, they must be global.

Calls for Change
Meanwhile the US-based Center for Science in the Public Interest has petitioned the FDA to ban artificial colorings that are linked to hyperactivity and behavior problems in children. It has also asked the FDA to require a warning label on foods with artificial dyes, while a ban is considered.

Food and beverage processors in the EU have until January 2010 to comply with new labeling requirements and synthetic coloring warning labels will be mandatory. Any food placed in the market before this deadline will be allowed to stay on the shelf until the sell-by-date has been reached.

Naturally there are Alternatives
There are numerous natural ways to enhance food color. Tumeric and saffron has been used for centuries.

In the UK, McDonald's restaurants use real strawberries to color their strawberry sauce. In the US, according to The Center for Science in the Public Interest, it comes from Red #40.

Kellogg's strawberry flavored Nutri-Grain Bars in the UK use natural color enhancements such as beetroot, annatto and paprika extract. Kellogg's in the United States uses Red #40, Yellow #6 and Blue #1.

Vegetable and plant extracts are natural food colors that are used in the EU but for the most part can't be legally used in the US or Canada as the FDA and Health Canada have not approved them.

Carmine has been used as a red food color dating back to the ancient Mayan, Incan and Egyptian civilizations. Carmine is better known as crushed, female, cochineal beetles. The process in producing this powder is safe and has been a viable colorant alternative for years. According to BusinessWeek Online and, carmine has made it into several products found on store shelves around the world such as: Yoplait yogurt, Tropicana Ruby Red Grapefruit Juice, Hershey's Good & Plenty Candies, Pepsi, and Nestle's Smarties to name a few.

Do Your Research
Ultimately we must be responsible for our children and ourselves. Know what goes into your body. Read labels, and if necessary, ask questions. Most product manufacturers have their website address on the packaging. There are also numerous, credible online resources that can help you. There's ample proof that not all governments are doing what they need to in order to minimize synthetic chemicals in our diet.

Karen Stephenson is a writer who lives north of Toronto, Canada. She enjoys spending time with her three teenage children and her husband. Karen is a social service worker and enjoys her day job working with behavioral children. She also writes for Suite101, an online magazine. Her favorite leisure pursuits include: outdoor activities, staying fit, pen-palling (with pen and paper), photography and watching NHL and world hockey.

1 comment:

Frankie said...

Here is a similar article hubby found:

The picture of the little girl is priceless!