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In a different mood, I might appreciate the irony of such a blatant food-dye holiday falling two weeks before the FDA is set to examine the connection between artificial food colors and children’s behavior. A holiday where people don’t just buy synthetically altered food, but deliberately tint it bright green themselves (a nifty American spin that no doubt would stump St. Patrick).

Shamrocks on her head,
not in her cereal bowl

Yet last week’s crush of screaming green food came right after we’d returned from a trip to Washington, D.C. There, neon colors filled kids’ cereal bowls at the hotel breakfast buffet. School buses of field-trippers chowed pseudo-food at museum McDonald’s. And stroller-pushing parents handed Coke bottles to thirsty kids. It was everyday insanity amplified by the temporary crazy of St. Patrick’s Day. So I wasn’t feeling the fun. In fact I was rethinking green’s status as my favorite color.

But I’ve been trying to remind myself that nature had the color first. That nature owns that color. And that St. Paddy’s celebrations can be just as fun without the petrochemical fix. Last Thursday, Tess and her classmates had a visit from the requisite leprechaun, who toppled books, cut a pair of tiny boots from green felt and left glitter in his wake. But all the kids found in their leprechaun traps were Irish pins and plastic shamrocks. No candy. No dyed-green food. No party, even. Did the kids care? Not a whit.

Now, with the FDA hearings upon us (March 30-31), I’m choosing to believe that we can reclaim green for the natural color it is. I’m under no illusions. Bureaucracy is slow. Artificial colors are rampant. And change needs more than two days of talks. But, in the last couple of months, there’s been a buzz about food dyes that I haven’t seen before. (Including this recent study showing that food, not drugs, may be more effective in treating ADHD.) So, hey, I’m looking on the bright side.

But let’s make sure the FDA has plenty of information: Check out this petition from the makers of the movie “Fresh.” Add your signature and/or comment, and the filmmakers will overnight the petition on March 22 to be received by the FDA on March 23. [Update on March 22: “Fresh” organizers say they’ll also provide the FDA with an electronic link for comments received between March 23 and March 30, so there’s still time to weigh in.] Whether you have a personal story to share, or just want artificial colors out of our food supply, it takes just a minute to lend your voice. I’ve added my name and a link to Spoonfed discussions on the issue:

Dyeing to know: Easter egg science lesson (April 2, 2010)
Food-dye research. Artificial colors in the United States vs. overseas. And using natural egg dyes as a lesson in fake vs. real.

Color me annoyed (April 9, 2010)
Green popsicles and blue ice cream underscore the prevalence of food dyes in school and summer camp.

The color of trouble (January 22, 2011)
A comprehensive overview of food dyes and the problems they cause, with a bonus farewell to neon birthday cake. (And, incidentally, the most-shared Spoonfed post ever.) An excerpt:

“Artificial colors are the charlatans of food additives: enticing, seemingly harmless… then wham. Linked to long-term health problems, these petroleum-derived chemicals often have immediate and devastating effects on children’s behavior and ability to learn. And unlike when we were kids (and our parents were kids), artificial colors are in everything, from food to toothpaste to medicine, even things that are white or look natural (check your pickles and “blueberries” ). Since 1955, that’s added up to a five-fold increase in dye consumption.”

Any St. Paddy’s tales to share? Vacation observations? Other insights while we ponder the crazy stuff that passes for food?


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