Color Bind: Will the FDA Finally Rub Out Toxic Food Dyes?

The colors of the rainbow never looked so toxic. (Photo: rmkoske/Creative Commons)

Mar 29, 2011· 0 MIN READ

It seems easy to spot food aisle products that are are loaded with artificial colorings: Fluorescent Cheetos and Skittles that are colors from beyond the rainbow are obvious dye jobs. But what about pickles? Oranges? Salad dressings?

These seemingly natural products are not exempt from artificial food dyes. To anyone concerned about the relation between synthetic food coloring and hyperactivity in children, low-flying food dying is an unsettling problem.

Healthier alternatives do exist: In response to consumers voting with their dollars, some companies have replaced artificial colorings with natural dyes made from plant extracts. But without government incentive to reformulate products, artificial dyes remain the cheaper and easier route taken by many U.S. food companies.

FDA to the Rescue? Maybe.

The FDA’s mandate is to protect consumers from unsafe products. But is wasn't until the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) presented a pointed and detailed case linking artificial food dyes to allergies, AD/HD and cancer that the FDA got around to scheduling a two-day meeting to discuss whether or not the government should restrict the use of artificial food coloring.