WASHINGTON - The United States should ban eight food dyes, used in products including General Mills Inc.'s Lucky Charms cereal, because of links to hyperactivity and other disruptive behavior in children, a health advocacy group said.
The Center for Science in the Public Interest said yesterday it petitioned the Food and Drug Administration to outlaw coloring listed on ingredient labels under names such as Blue 2 and Red 40.
Studies over three decades have shown that some children's behaviors are worsened by the dyes, whose use has been rising, according to the center. The FDA says it hasn't seen evidence the food coloring has caused harm. The dyes can simulate the color of fruits or vegetables and are often used in candy, soda, and snack foods aimed at children.
"The continued use of artificial food dyes is the secret shame of the food industry and the cops in Washington that are supposed to be protecting the public from unhealthy ingredients," said Michael F. Jacobson, executive director of the Washington-based center.
The FDA said in a brochure posted on its website, dated November 2004, that there was no evidence linking food coloring to hyperactivity. The agency is unaware of any information since then to change its position, said a spokeswoman in an e-mail.
"Although this hypothesis was popularized in the 1970s, well-controlled studies conducted since then have produced no evidence that food additives cause hyperactivity or learning disabilities in children," according to the agency's brochure.
Products containing the dyes include Kraft Foods Inc.'s guacamole flavor dip, which gets its "greenish" color from Yellow 5, Yellow 6, and Blue 1 rather than from avocados, according to the center, which wants to ban each of those dyes. The "blue bits" in Aunt Jemima blueberry waffles, made by a company owned by Blackstone Group LP, are blue because of Red 40 and Blue 2, not blueberries, according to the center.
The group also wants the FDA to ban Green 3, Orange B, and Red 3. Many of the dyes are produced in China and India, according to the center.
The center's petition urges the FDA to require a warning label on foods with artificial dyes while it considers the request to ban them.