A Food Dye Scare Campaign’s True Colors

They huffed and they puffed, but America’s most notorious food cops couldn’t blow away a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) committee with their proposal to require warning labels on added food coloring. As we reported last week, the real motive of the Center for the Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) is–and always will be–creating high-profile excuses to attack a long list of foods it thinks we should do without. Food dyes are just this control-freak group’s latest target.

Before considering CSPI’s petition to ban food dyes last week, an FDA committee reported that that “a causal relationship between exposure to color additives and hyperactivity in children in the general population has not been established.” And following last week’s FDA meeting, The Wall Street Journal reported that the same committee rejected CSPI’s rationale for banning food dyes.

CSPI Executive Director Michael Jacobson said the FDA committee would have reached a different outcome if it hadn’t focused so much on asking CSPI for pesky proof that food dyes actually harm kids’ health:

The question was “is there proof?” They should have asked a different question. They should have asked “are the dyes safe?” The answers would have been different to that kind of question.

Downgrading the value of “proof” is Jacobson’s prerogative, but we’re glad it’s not the FDA’s. Food dyes are already so heavily regulated by the FDA that they must meet strict approval and safety standards not applied to other common commercial food ingredients.

Even food scold Marion Nestle admits she’s undecided about food dyes’ safety. But lacking “more conclusive research,” she says she’s leaving the ultimate decision of whether to purchase artificially colored foods up to the consumer.

After more than 30 years of food-dye fearmongers consistently failing to back up their tired rhetoric with actual “conclusive research,” it’s time to put this non-issue to rest. Those still on the fence have plenty of dye-free options at the supermarket. That’s just one benefit of having consumer freedom at the grocery store and beyond, and one we’ll keep defending against food-hype nannies like Jacobson and CSPI.

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