FDA advisers want more study of food dye-ADHD link
March 31st, 2011
04:09 PM ET

FDA advisers want more study of food dye-ADHD link

A Food and Drug Administration advisory committee decided Thursday there is insufficient evidence to support a link between artificial dyes in foods and children with ADHD.  The committee will make no recommendation to ban or regulate dye additives found in food products. But the committee did stress that there seems to be a trend with artificial dyes and side effects in children and that more research is needed.

Over the past two days the committee has heard testimony on dyes and how they cause some children to show signs of hyperactivity.  The question before the committee: Is there enough evidence to connect artificial dyes and hyperactivity and, if so, should it recommend that the FDA strengthen its regulations on these ingredients?  The committee's response seems to be  "Not now."

According to the experts who testified, European companies already are dropping dyes including Blue #1, Yellow #5 and #6 and others and substituting natural colorings  for them. But the United States still allows artificial dyes, mostly for aesthetic reasons, not for taste, the experts say.

There are eight dyes now being used in the United States; Citrus Red 2, Red 3, Red 40, Blue 1 & 2, Green 3 and Yellow 5 & 6. They can be found in numerous food products from packaged macaroni and cheese to Easter candy.

Critics had called for either a ban or more explicit labeling. “Why are these dyes in these foods anyway?” asked Michael Jacobsen, executive director of the Center for Science and the Public Interest, a watchdog group on nutrition and food safety. “I would push for having them taken out completely. But if that can’t be done, why not warn the public and parents that these dyes could have some effects?”

The idea that dyes in food causes ADHD was first noted in "Why Your Child is Hyperactive," a book written by Dr. Benjamin Feingold in 1975. The eating style described in the book became known as the Feingold Diet. He found if you eliminated artificial food dyes and additives in American diets, cases of hyperactivity in children, later defined as ADHD, would decline. But reviews of the data found that the correlation between dyes and hyperactivity were inconsistent.

Although numerous data have been collected on food dyes and hyperactivity in kids during the past decade, critics say the design of the studies has been weak. They note many of the studies were performed on small groups– many involved no more than 25 children. They also noted that much of the observation data (how the child acted) was reported by parents and not by clinicians. And they pointed out that most of the dyes tested were combined into a dye mixture and not tested individually.

The most recent studies to bring food dyes and ADHD back to the public eye was a 2007 project conducted by researchers at the University of Southampton in the United Kingdom. It showed that artificial food dyes along with sodium benzoate (a white crystalline salt used as a food preservative) increased ADHD symptoms in both hyperactive and non-hyperactive children. That study was followed up by another paper in 2010 by the same researchers who looked at the connection between food dyes, ADHD and histamine, a chemical that’s produced in the brain when the body is having an allergic reaction.

“We found mixtures of certain artificial colors together with sodium benzoate preservative in the diet increased the average level of hyperactivity in 3 and 8/9 year old children in the general population,” Dr. Jim Stevenson, a professor at the School of Psychology at the University of Southampton, and lead author of the study, testified Wednesday.

During the hearing, parents from all over the United States shared stories about their children with the committee. Renee Shutters, from Jamestown, New York, said her 5-year-old ,Trenton, who at the time was in preschool, was an unhappy child. “He just wasn’t comfortable with himself,” said Shutters. But after talking to another parent who said her child was having behavioral issues because he was allergic to a food dye, Shutters took action. “I went through my pantry and removed everything with dyes," declared Shutters.

“Now,” Shutters says, “Trenton is fine. After two days there was a huge change. Two weeks later he felt different, much happier and six weeks later, he was a new child.”

“To give my child an artificial dye would be child abuse!” exclaimed Maureen Lamm, a doctor and mother of three from Kennesaw, Georgia, a suburb of Atlanta. “He suffers that much when he eats foods with certain dyes.” Lamm has become so involved she offers a website, www.momsabcs.com, to parents to warn them about dye allergies.

But the FDA’s evaluation of studies on color additives and ADHD found there was very little strong evidence in any of these studies that showed dyes were the primary reason for a child’s hyperactivity.

“There were other factors in most of these studies that could have been the reason or could have gone hand in hand with the dyes to create these problems in these particular children, including preservatives,”said Jason August with the FDA’s Office of Food Additive Safety.

And the International Food Information Council, which is supported primarily by broad-based food, beverage and agricultural industries, says the science isn’t there.

“Without sufficient scientific evidence that a causal link truly exists between food colors and hyperactivity in children, communications that suggest a link could have unintended consequences, including unnecessarily frightening consumers about safe ingredients that are consumed every day,” said David Schmidt, president and CEO of IFIC.

After lengthy discussion the committee made its decision based on the FDA’s evaluation of study data, as well as testimony from researchers. It was the weakness of the studies, and the lack of data, that caused the committee to ask for more research and delay action on artificial dyes.

Although the committee only makes recommendations to the FDA, the agency usually follows those recommendations.

soundoff (580 Responses)
  1. RV Repair San Clemente California

    I blog frequently and I seriously appreciate your content. This great article has truly peaked my interest. I am going to bookmark your site and keep checking for new details about once a week. I subscribed to your RSS feed too.


    June 25, 2021 at 06:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. RV Repair Santa Ana

    Right here is the right webpage for anyone who would like to find out about this topic. You understand so much its almost hard to argue with you (not that I personally will need toÖHaHa). You definitely put a brand new spin on a subject which has been discussed for many years. Excellent stuff, just excellent!


    June 25, 2021 at 06:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. RV Repair Near My Location

    bookmarked!!, I like your website!


    June 25, 2021 at 08:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Camper Repair Shop Near Me

    Way cool! Some very valid points! I appreciate you writing this post and the rest of the site is extremely good.


    June 25, 2021 at 08:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. RV Repair Near My Location


    June 25, 2021 at 10:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Leadership Style Assessment

    You made some really good points there. I looked on the internet for more information about the issue and found most people will go along with your views on this website.


    June 25, 2021 at 10:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Adan Ortolano


    June 25, 2021 at 19:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Camper Repair Shops Near Me

    Aw, this was an extremely nice post. Spending some time and actual effort to generate a great articleÖ but what can I sayÖ I procrastinate a lot and never manage to get nearly anything done.


    June 25, 2021 at 20:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Sprinter Repair Shop Near Me


    June 25, 2021 at 20:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. RV Engine Repair Near Me


    June 25, 2021 at 21:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. RV Repair Near My Location


    June 25, 2021 at 22:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. RV Repair Shops Near My Location

    Good post. I learn something new and challenging on sites I stumbleupon every day. It's always useful to read articles from other authors and use a little something from other web sites.


    June 25, 2021 at 22:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. RV Refrigerator Repair Near Me


    June 26, 2021 at 03:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. Brooks Radcliff


    June 26, 2021 at 05:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. RV Repair Places Near Me

    I would like to thank you for the efforts you have put in writing this blog. I am hoping to view the same high-grade blog posts from you in the future as well. In truth, your creative writing abilities has encouraged me to get my own website now 😉


    June 26, 2021 at 06:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. RV Repairs Near Me

    Good post. I learn something totally new and challenging on blogs I stumbleupon every day. It will always be interesting to read articles from other writers and practice a little something from their websites.


    June 26, 2021 at 07:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. Erin Fincham


    June 26, 2021 at 07:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. RV Exhaust Repair Near Me


    June 26, 2021 at 09:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. RV Awning Repair Near Me

    This excellent website definitely has all of the information I needed about this subject and didnít know who to ask.


    June 26, 2021 at 10:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. RV Glass Repair Near Me


    June 26, 2021 at 11:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. RV Fiberglass Repair Near Me

    I really like it when people come together and share opinions. Great website, keep it up!


    June 26, 2021 at 12:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. Amazon 14 Leadership Principles


    June 26, 2021 at 18:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. joey diaz podcast

    You've made some good points there. I looked on the web for more info about the issue and found most people will go along with your views on this website.


    June 26, 2021 at 19:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. Leadership Meaning

    I absolutely love your site.. Great colors & theme. Did you build this site yourself? Please reply back as Iím trying to create my own personal website and would like to learn where you got this from or just what the theme is called. Kudos!


    June 26, 2021 at 20:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. Books On Leadership


    June 27, 2021 at 02:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. stuttering john podcast


    June 27, 2021 at 09:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. Leadership Values


    June 27, 2021 at 11:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. chris d'elia podcast


    June 27, 2021 at 11:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. Joe Rogan Podcast Leadership


    June 27, 2021 at 12:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. Ww1 Leadership

    A fascinating discussion is worth comment. I do think that you ought to write more on this topic, it may not be a taboo matter but usually people don't discuss such topics. To the next! Best wishes!!


    June 27, 2021 at 13:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. star wars podcast


    June 27, 2021 at 14:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. Wrap Shop

    Hi, I do think this is a great site. I stumbledupon it 😉 I'm going to revisit once again since I book marked it. Money and freedom is the best way to change, may you be rich and continue to help other people.


    June 27, 2021 at 16:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. Best Tucker Sprinter Repair


    June 27, 2021 at 17:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. Mercedes Sprinter Repair


    June 27, 2021 at 17:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. Sprinter Repair Orange County

    Great site you have got here.. Itís hard to find good quality writing like yours nowadays. I truly appreciate people like you! Take care!!


    June 27, 2021 at 18:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. RV Repair Near Me

    Excellent blog you have here.. Itís hard to find high quality writing like yours these days. I really appreciate people like you! Take care!!


    June 27, 2021 at 21:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. RV Repair Seal Beach


    June 27, 2021 at 22:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  38. RV Repairs Nearby


    June 28, 2021 at 09:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  39. Camper Repair Near Me


    June 28, 2021 at 09:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  40. Chevrolet Luxury Van Repair

    Greetings! Very helpful advice within this article! It's the little changes that make the most important changes. Thanks for sharing!


    June 28, 2021 at 12:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  41. Sprinter Auto Repair

    Hi there! I could have sworn Iíve visited this blog before but after looking at many of the posts I realized itís new to me. Nonetheless, Iím certainly pleased I discovered it and Iíll be bookmarking it and checking back regularly!


    June 28, 2021 at 14:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  42. Sprinter Repair Shops Near Me


    June 28, 2021 at 16:43 | Report abuse | Reply
  43. Sprinter Van Repair Laguna Niguel


    June 28, 2021 at 21:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  44. Chevy Van Repair

    I wanted to thank you for this great read!! I certainly enjoyed every bit of it. I have got you book marked to look at new things you postÖ


    June 28, 2021 at 22:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  45. Sprinter Van Repair Facilities

    This is a very good tip especially to those new to the blogosphere. Short but very precise infoÖ Thanks for sharing this one. A must read article!


    June 28, 2021 at 23:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  46. RV Repair Around Me


    June 29, 2021 at 01:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  47. Camper Repairs Near Me


    June 29, 2021 at 04:05 | Report abuse | Reply
  48. RV Repair Shop Near Me

    Can I simply say what a comfort to uncover an individual who truly understands what they are talking about over the internet. You actually realize how to bring an issue to light and make it important. More and more people must check this out and understand this side of your story. It's surprising you aren't more popular because you definitely possess the gift.


    June 29, 2021 at 05:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  49. Pleasure Way Van Repair Shop Near Me


    June 29, 2021 at 07:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  50. Emergency Vehicle Repair


    June 29, 2021 at 07:30 | Report abuse | Reply
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12

Post a comment


CNN welcomes a lively and courteous discussion as long as you follow the Rules of Conduct set forth in our Terms of Service. Comments are not pre-screened before they post. You agree that anything you post may be used, along with your name and profile picture, in accordance with our Privacy Policy and the license you have granted pursuant to our Terms of Service.

About this blog

Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.