U.S. asks if food dyes make kids hyperactive

Fri Mar 25, 2011 5:06pm GMT

By Lisa Richwine

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. regulators are weighing a question parents have asked since the 1970s: do artificial food dyes make children hyperactive?

A consumer group has petitioned the government to ban blue, green, orange, red and yellow food colourings. The synthetic dyes are common in food and drinks ranging from PepsiCo's Gatorade, Cheetos and Doritos to Kellogg's Eggo waffles and Kraft's Jell-O desserts.

Manufacturers say reviews by regulators around the world confirm the dyes are safe. The Centre for Science in the Public Interest argues, however, there is plenty of data showing the dyes trigger hyperactivity in kids who are predisposed to it.

"There is convincing evidence that food dyes impair the behaviour of some children," said Michael Jacobson, head of the consumer group famous for exposing the fat and calories in movie-theatre popcorn and fast food.

Jacobson and others will testify next week before a Food and Drug Administration advisory committee that will consider the question on Wednesday and Thursday. The FDA will hear the advisers' views before deciding whether to take any action, which could take months or years.

FDA reviewers, in documents prepared for the advisory panel, said scientific research so far suggested some children with attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) may be affected by food colouring. The disorder affects up to 5 percent of U.S. children, according to government statistics.

"For certain susceptible children with ADHD and other problem behaviours, the data suggest their condition may be exacerbated" by substances in food including artificial colours, the FDA staff wrote in a preliminary analysis.

For the general population, the FDA "concludes that a causal relationship" between the dyes and hyperactivity "has not been established," the agency staff said.   Continued...

<p>A customer shops in the expanded baby department at a remodelled Sam's Club in Arkansas, June 3, 2010. REUTERS/Sarah Conard</p>
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