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Regular Spoonfed readers know that artificial colors infuriate me like no other food additive. They’re useless except to mask overprocessing and missing nutrients. They’ve been linked time and again to both behavioral and health issues. Food manufacturers use them solely to trick and manipulate. There’s not one legitimate reason to allow them in our food supply.

So I hope you’ll bear with me as I offer one more food-dyes post in advance of this week’s FDA hearings (March 30-31), which will examine the connection between petrochemical dyes and children’s behavior. Two excellent articles just hit the web, and I think they provide some great information and perspective, particularly for people in your life who might not get what all the fuss is about:

The rainbow of food dyes in our grocery aisles has a dark side
This Washington Post op-ed details the history of food dyes, their dangerous effects and the many ways in which the United States lags other countries in addressing the issue. It’s written by David Schab, a Columbia University psychiatry professor who has studied the link between food dyes and hyperactivity, and Michael Jacobson, executive director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, one of the organizations that pushed strongly for this week’s FDA hearings. “Allowing the use of artificial dyes violates the FDA’s mandate to protect consumers from unsafe products. It also runs afoul of the agency’s mandate to crack down on food that has been made ‘to appear better or of greater value than it is.'” (Also worth reading from the WaPo: this article on food-industry justifications and how artificial colors have “distorted the American concept of what a food looks like.”)

Serving up food dyes, UK style
A fascinating blog post by “The Unhealthy Truth” author Robyn O’Brien (whose inspiring TEDx talk I just shared). Robyn explores why American food companies like Kraft and Walmart have stopped using artificial colors and other additives (like preservatives and artificial sweeteners) in the food they sell overseas, but not here at home. “We’re not asking them to reinvent the wheel — they’ve already removed these ingredients from their products elsewhere.  So why can’t our children get the same protection?  Why can’t they serve up the same products to us?”

Finally, if you haven’t already, please consider signing this petition from the makers of the movie “Fresh.” Add your signature, comment, personal story, sheer and simple outrage, whatever. Organizers will deliver a link to the FDA.

More on artificial colors from the Spoonfed archives:

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. Also a great discussion in the comments about natural dye alternatives. (And, incidentally, the most-shared Spoonfed post to date.) 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.”

Reclaiming of the green (and tell the FDA “no dyes”) (March 21, 2011)
Last week’s post-St. Patrick’s Day piece, in which I rally for reclaiming green as a natural color.

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