In 1976, M&M candies discontinued their "Red M" amidst concerns over the potentially fatal risk of red food coloring that contained amaranth (in FD&C Red #2), suspected as being cancer-causing. Though M&M did not use this dye in the product pulled from store shelves, fears about red-dyed foods were so heightened, the red-colored candy did not return for more than a decade.
After much petitioning by the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has announced plans to form an advisory committee meeting which will review clinical studies conducted on common food dyes including Yellow 5 and Red 40 and the link connecting them to adverse behavior issues in children.
Brought to public attention in the 1970s by a San Francisco allergist who noticed significant improvement in patients when they changed their diets, numerous studies have supported his theory, yet no regulations have been put in place to monitor the use of questionable dyes in cereals, snacks and candies targeted at children.
Throughout Europe, several countries have banned artificial dyes and require foods using any still-approved unnatural colors to prominently display warning labels on packaging. Those labels are required to state that consuming foods containing artificial colors might be linked to behavioral issues in children. American companies including Kellogg's, Kraft and McDonald's, have stopped using artificial dyes abroad while they continue to sell foods with the questionable ingredients to the U.S. market in lieu of their obvious capabilities to use natural alternatives.
Despite Europe's tight stance on food dyes and the numerous clinical studies showing the increased risk to children who consume them, the FDA — even after commissioning its own studies on food dyes — has been reluctant to address the issue until now.
According to the FDA, in 2007 Americans were consuming five times more artificial food colorings than they were in 1955.
Stay in touch with Jill on Twitter: www.twitter.com/jillettinger