CSPI Paints a Rainbow of Fear Over Food Dyes

After spending more than a decade scaring parents silly about poisoning their kids’ bodies and minds with “riotously colored processed foods,” America’s most notorious food cop rejoiced in Friday’s Washington Post that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is finally taking his fanatical organization seriously.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), led by the Ralph Nader-Trained Michael Jacobson, petitioned the FDA in 2008 to ban artificial food dyes. A critical component of CSPI’s petition was based on findings from a 2007 study conducted by British researchers at University of Southampton and published in the Lancet. While some medical and mental health experts claim the study is the most comprehensive of its kind, they also note that it’s also the most confusing.

The British study was conducted on children already affected by Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) or other behavioral problems, making it difficult to adequately assess whether artificial food dyes played any role in causing or exacerbating their pre-existing hyperactivity. It also examined kids’ exposures to a combination of artificial dyes and preservatives, rendering the tests useless for determining their behavior’s true causes (if there were any).

FDA officials charged with reviewing CSPI’s petition and preparing for this week’s Food Advisory Committee meeting have already reported that “a causal relationship between exposure to color additives and hyperactivity in children in the general population [still] has not been established.” And some medical experts wonder if a definitive link between food dyes and hyperactivity will ever be established.

Joseph Borzelleca, Professor Emeritus of Pharmacology and Toxicology at theVirginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine, told the Chicago Tribune in January that the FDA has consistently kept artificial food dyes under a microscope, making them some of the most regulated (and safest) additives on the market:

The (synthetic food dyes) used in the U.S. are absolutely safe. Food colors are among the most thoroughly studied of the food ingredients.

CSPI has a long history of constantly scolding Americans for occasionally consuming “unhealthy” treats like soda, movie theater popcorn, and candy. This appears to be just another CSPI campaign that’s short on solid science. We have to wonder if the group’s real motive is establishing another excuse to attack the long list of foods it thinks we should do without.

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