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. journaling coach

    An intriguing discussion is definitely worth comment. I think that you should publish more about this subject, it may not be a taboo subject but usually people do not talk about these subjects. To the next! Many thanks!!


    May 5, 2021 at 11:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. RV Kitchen Riverside

    Hi, I do think this is an excellent site. I stumbledupon it 😉 I may revisit once again since I book-marked it. Money and freedom is the best way to change, may you be rich and continue to guide other people.


    May 5, 2021 at 13:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. truck repair services near me


    May 5, 2021 at 17:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. estate sales near me

    After checking out a few of the blog posts on your blog, I honestly appreciate your technique of writing a blog. I book marked it to my bookmark webpage list and will be checking back soon. Please check out my website as well and tell me what you think.


    May 5, 2021 at 19:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. chase california


    May 5, 2021 at 22:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. freightliner cascadia

    I quite like reading through an article that will make men and women think. Also, thank you for allowing for me to comment!


    May 6, 2021 at 06:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. camper van conversion


    May 6, 2021 at 12:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. restaurants near me

    It’s hard to find knowledgeable people about this topic, but you sound like you know what you’re talking about! Thanks


    May 6, 2021 at 13:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. toyota dealer near me


    May 6, 2021 at 17:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Forklift Maintenance Shop Near Me


    May 6, 2021 at 17:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Places That Sell Kegs Near Me


    May 6, 2021 at 17:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Used Forklift Service California


    May 6, 2021 at 19:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. post office near me

    Saved as a favorite, I love your site!


    May 7, 2021 at 04:05 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. rv replacement parts near me


    May 7, 2021 at 06:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. New Forklift Service Shop California


    May 7, 2021 at 08:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. 5 Liter Kegs


    May 7, 2021 at 08:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. smoothie near me

    Very good article. I will be experiencing many of these issues as well..


    May 7, 2021 at 14:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. boom truck repair near me

    I blog often and I seriously thank you for your content. This article has truly peaked my interest. I'm going to take a note of your website and keep checking for new details about once a week. I subscribed to your RSS feed too.


    May 7, 2021 at 19:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. Social Media Marketing Events

    I would like to thank you for the efforts you have put in penning this blog. I really hope to see the same high-grade content by you later on as well. In truth, your creative writing abilities has inspired me to get my own blog now 😉


    May 7, 2021 at 23:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. furniture repair shop near me

    Hi, I do believe this is a great website. I stumbledupon it 😉 I may come back yet again since I bookmarked it. Money and freedom is the greatest way to change, may you be rich and continue to help others.


    May 7, 2021 at 23:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. Social Media Marketing Agencies Near Me

    Pretty! This was an extremely wonderful article. Thanks for supplying this info.


    May 8, 2021 at 02:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. Social Media Marketing Companies Near Me

    Having read this I believed it was really informative. I appreciate you spending some time and effort to put this short article together. I once again find myself spending a significant amount of time both reading and posting comments. But so what, it was still worthwhile!


    May 8, 2021 at 13:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. toad truck near me


    May 8, 2021 at 14:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. Social Media Marketing Agency California

    Excellent blog you have here.. It’s hard to find excellent writing like yours nowadays. I seriously appreciate people like you! Take care!!


    May 8, 2021 at 14:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. Social Media Marketing Businesses Near Me


    May 8, 2021 at 17:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. Social Media Marketing Management

    May I just say what a comfort to find somebody who genuinely understands what they are talking about over the internet. You definitely know how to bring a problem to light and make it important. A lot more people should look at this and understand this side of the story. I can't believe you're not more popular given that you surely possess the gift.


    May 8, 2021 at 18:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. Seo Marketing Firm


    May 8, 2021 at 18:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. Video Marketing Pros


    May 8, 2021 at 22:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. Internet Marketing Jobs San Clemente

    Spot on with this write-up, I actually think this web site needs a great deal more attention. I’ll probably be returning to read through more, thanks for the advice!


    May 9, 2021 at 01:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. Social Media Marketing California


    May 9, 2021 at 01:43 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. RV Cabinet Orange County


    May 9, 2021 at 04:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. Internet Marketing Mentors


    May 9, 2021 at 08:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. Social Media Marketing Review

    I need to to thank you for this good read!! I definitely enjoyed every little bit of it. I have got you book-marked to check out new things you post…


    May 9, 2021 at 08:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. RV Camera Riverside

    Hi there! This blog post could not be written any better! Looking at this post reminds me of my previous roommate! He continually kept talking about this. I'll forward this article to him. Pretty sure he'll have a good read. Thank you for sharing!


    May 9, 2021 at 11:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. Digital Marketing Firms


    May 9, 2021 at 18:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. RV Interior Remodeling California


    May 9, 2021 at 19:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. Social Media Marketing Program

    It’s difficult to find well-informed people for this topic, but you seem like you know what you’re talking about! Thanks


    May 9, 2021 at 21:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  38. Internet Marketing Firm


    May 10, 2021 at 13:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  39. Local Marketing Videos


    May 10, 2021 at 18:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  40. Local Marketing Association


    May 10, 2021 at 21:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  41. Digital Marketing Companies

    Greetings! Very useful advice within this post! It is the little changes which will make the greatest changes. Thanks a lot for sharing!


    May 11, 2021 at 01:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  42. Internet Marketing Reviews

    After I originally left a comment I appear to have clicked the -Notify me when new comments are added- checkbox and from now on every time a comment is added I get 4 emails with the exact same comment. Perhaps there is a way you are able to remove me from that service? Appreciate it!


    May 11, 2021 at 01:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  43. Internet Marketing Mechanics


    May 11, 2021 at 09:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  44. Google Marketing Specialist


    May 11, 2021 at 15:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  45. Dodge Sprinter Fuel Injector Repair

    Very good info. Lucky me I recently found your website by accident (stumbleupon). I have book-marked it for later!


    May 11, 2021 at 20:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  46. furniture repair in orange county ca

    Spot on with this write-up, I really believe this amazing site needs much more attention. I’ll probably be returning to read through more, thanks for the advice!


    May 11, 2021 at 21:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  47. RV Generator Orange County


    May 12, 2021 at 02:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  48. solar installation orange county


    May 12, 2021 at 04:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  49. oc collision


    May 12, 2021 at 06:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  50. RV Generator Orange County

    Right here is the right blog for anybody who wishes to find out about this topic. You understand a whole lot its almost tough to argue with you (not that I actually will need to…HaHa). You definitely put a new spin on a subject that has been discussed for a long time. Great stuff, just great!


    May 12, 2021 at 12:36 | 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.