Do the blues and reds in processed foods make kids go crazy? The latest chapter in a decades-long debate.
I've been waiting to see what the FDA panel did before commenting on this week's hearings on food dyes and hyperactivity in young children.
Research, says the FDA panel, is insufficient to conclude that food dyes cause hyperactivity. Despite much concern about this issue in Great Britain, the FDA will not put a warning label on foods that contain the dyes.
This is déjà vu all over again. When I first became interested in nutrition in the mid-1970s, food dyes were a big issue. Hyperactivity in kids was a new thing. Ben Feingold, a physician in California, said that a diet devoid of food colors would help calm kids down. The Feingold Association still encourages that diet.
But scientific tests of the Feingold hypothesis produced mixed effects. In 1980, Science magazine published two reports of such tests.
The first, by James M. Swanson and Marcel Kinsbourne (Science 1980; 207:1485-87), gave pills containing a mix of food additives to 40 children, 20 diagnosed as hyperactive and 20 not. The children diagnosed with hyperactivity reacted to the food additive challenge but the other children did not.