Artificial Colors Found in Nearly Half of Foods Marketed at Children

artificial colors in kids food

Forty-three percent of kids’ foods contain artificial colors and food dyes, according to new research published by the University of North Carolina Asheville. The researchers tested 810 products marketed to children and found that 350 contained artificial coloring.

“When four in 10 child-oriented products in the grocery store contain at least one artificial food dye, it becomes difficult for parents who want to eliminate dyed foods from their kids’ diets,” UNC Asheville assistant professor Ameena Batada, lead researcher on the paper, told Corporate Crime Reporter.

The paper, which was published in Clinical Pediatrics, showed that 96.3 percent of tested candies contained artificial food dye, while 94 percent of fruit-flavored snacks, 89.7 percent of drink mixes and powders, and 86 percent of frozen breakfast foods contained them. Forty-one of the 66 companies inspected sold products that contained these coloring agents, and Kraft Foods, with 66 percent of the 105 foods tested containing artificial food dye, produced the most, despite recently removing or reducing dyes in some of its products.

“While some companies have sought favorable publicity by announcing moves away from dyes and other artificial ingredients, it is clear that manufacturers such as Kraft, General Mills, and PepsiCo have a long way to go,” said Center for Science in the Public Interest president Michael F. Jacobson, co-author of the study.

This class of chemical has been linked to health and behavioral problems in both children and adults, particularly hyperactivity, hypersensitivity, and even cancer, according to a 2010 CSPI report on the nine artificial food dyes approved in the U.S.

CSPI has petitioned for the FDA to ban Red 3, Red 40, Yellow 5, Yellow 6, Blue 1, Blue 2, Green 3, and Orange B, pushing instead for plant-based colorings. In the U.K., for example, the orange soft drink Fanta is dyed, not with Red 40 and Yellow 6, but with pumpkin and carrot extracts.

“Companies should make faster progress replacing dyes, but the FDA could make parents’ jobs a lot easier by revoking its approval for this class of chemicals,” said Batada.

The researchers gathered data by inspecting products from one grocery store in North Carolina in 2014. They selected products that were marketed with cartoons, licensed characters, kid-oriented prizes, and other cues that children were being targeted.

Related on Organic Authority
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FDA Declines to Ban Controversial Food Dyes in U.S.
Kraft Pulls Artificial Colors from Some Mac & Cheese Products

Girl with lollipop image via Shutterstock

Emily Monaco is a food and culture writer based in Paris. Her work has been featured in the Wall... More about Emily Monaco