Hate artificial dyes? As the Director of the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy’s Food and Health Program Dr. David Wallinga is pleased to announce a web-based Brain Food SelectorTM. It is a database that will help the average person easily find foods containing artificial dyes.
Consumers will now be able to search by brand, product type, or specific artificial dye. The IATP’s Smart Guide to Food Dyes also describes why artificial food dyes are used. It gives valuable information about associated children’s health concerns. It also offers things parents can do to avoid buying products laced with these artificial dyes.
Dr. Walliga says, “The good news is that there are safer alternatives to synthetic food dyes and many food companies are already making the switch. We need the food industry and U.S. government agencies to catch up with the latest science and start protecting our children. Until then, parents need to be armed with information when they go to the supermarket.”
In today’s market, consumers are surrounded with candies and processed foods containing artificial dyes. Studies have shown that these dyes increase hyperactivity and other disturbed behavior in children. Until now there has not been a good, convenient way to determine what product is the safest, most ideal choice. Parents concerned about artificial dyes often find themselves reading labels laboriously while shopping, and often times being distracted by their children. Now there is a better, more convenient option. Two new consumer tools from the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP) help parents make smart choices about foods not containing brain toxins before they get to the store to shop.
- The IATP’s Brain Food Selector: A listing of foods and the food coloring they contain
- a Printable PDF Smart Guide to Food Dyes: buying foods that can help learning
Dr. Wallinga explains that artificial dyes in foods are mainly petroleum-derived and are an unnecessary additive. FDA-approves the use for synthetic food dyes to make foods more fun (e.g., sprinkles or brightly colored candies); to color otherwise colorless foods (e.g., lime sherbet); and to enhance the natural color in a food (e.g., canned peas). Synthetic food dyes can be found in many foods such as Fruit Loops and popsicles, but also in butter, fruit skins, and hot dog casings. Synthetic dyes are most common in foods marketed to children, candies, dressings, treats, and dipping sauces at fast food outlets.
During the last three decades, several studies have concluded that even small doses of synthetic dyes added to foods can cause hyperactivity and other disturbed behavior in children. In April 2008, Britain’s Food Standards Agency advised the food industry to voluntarily ban the use of six common synthetic food dyes by 2009. Some manufacturers now sell two versions of their products: one without synthetic food dyes for the UK, and a U.S. version that includes such dyes.
The Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy works locally and globally at the intersection of policy and practice to ensure fair and sustainable food, farm and trade systems. Visit www.iatp.org for more information.
Dr. David Wallinga is the Director of the Food and Health Program at the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy. An expert on public health impacts of industrialized food, Wallinga gives talks and interviews with the press on a variety of environmental and food related issues. He focuses much of his time on researching and reporting on pollutants that affect the developing brains and vital organs in children. He is a member of two coalitions: Keep Antibiotics Working, and Health Care Without Harm. Dr. Wallinga has co-authored In Harm’s Way: Toxic Threats to Child Development, and authored Putting Children First: Making Pesticide Levels in Food Safer for Infants and Children. He joined the IATP in 2000, and has previously worked in the public health program of the Natural Resource Defense Council in Washington, D.C. Dr. Wallinga has a medical degree from the University of Minnesota Medical School, and a master’s degree from Princeton University.