No warning labels needed for artificial colors

by Jeff Gelski
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The Food Advisory Committee of the Food and Drug Administration, by a count of 8 to 6 on March 31, voted against disclosing additional information on the product label of foods containing certified color additives to ensure their safe use.

While the vote makes it unlikely the F.D.A. will require warning labels for specific synthetic colors, food and beverage manufacturers still have the option of using naturally-sourced colors and possibly tapping into the market for simple label products or more natural products.

The March 31 vote generally pleased the International Food Information Council and the Grocery Manufacturers Association, both based in Washington.

“The label is precious real estate that should be reserved for real public health warnings or nutrition information,” IFIC said. “F.D.A. must enforce labeling that is truthful and not misleading. A warning about a safe ingredient like food colors would be both false and misleading and, combined with other unnecessary warnings, could lead to consumers tuning out all warnings.”

The committee, by a count of 11 to 3, voted that a casual relationship has not been established between consumption of certified color additives in food and hyperactivity in children in the general population.

“We are not surprised by the F.D.A. Food Advisory Committee’s determination that artificial food colors do not cause hyperactivity in children,” IFIC said. “The scientific evidence currently does not show that food colors cause or exacerbate hyperactivity or other behavior problems in the majority of children.”

The G.M.A. said, “The safety of artificial colors has been affirmed through extensive review by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (via the food additive review process) and the European Food Safety Authority and neither agency sees the need to change current policy. All of the major safety bodies globally have reviewed the available science and have determined that there is no demonstrable link between artificial food colors and hyperactivity among children.”

GNT USA, Tarrytown, N.Y., did not testify or participate in the advisory committee’s meeting, said Stefan Hake, chief executive officer of GNT USA.

“The F.D.A. has a lot on its plate and does a very good job in keeping food safe,” Mr. Hake said.

GNT has manufactured colors from fruits or vegetables for 30 years to offer companies an alternative to synthetic colors.

“Our approach is basically we like to focus on what we know how to do and what our strength is,” Mr. Hake said.

He said in the next three years industry should wait and see if a large grocery chain says it does not want specific synthetic colors in the products at its store. The chain Tesco has taken that action in the United Kingdom, he said. Also in the United Kingdom, the Food Standards Agency in 2009 called for a voluntary removal of six artificial colors. The six colors were sunset yellow (known as FD&C Yellow No. 6 in the United States), carmoisine, tartrazine (FD&C Yellow No. 5), ponceau 4R, quinoline yellow and allura red (FD&C Red No. 40).

While the F.D.A. advisory committee met March 30-31, Whole Foods Market, Austin, Texas, issued a statement reminding consumers that its products are free of artificial food colorings.

Likewise, The Hain Celestial Group, Inc., Melville, N.Y., stated it has a long-standing policy against the use of artificial food colors and flavors.

“Health concerns about artificial flavors and colors are not new, and our quality standards prohibit them, especially in children’s products,” said Irwin D. Simon, president and c.e.o. of Hain Celestial.

Frito-Lay North America, a division of PepsiCo, Inc., Purchase, N.Y., has said about 50% of its portfolio will be made with all-natural ingredients by the end of this year. As part of the process, the company will not use the synthetic FD&C colors in those products, said Kari Hecker Ryan, Ph.D., group manager of nutrition and regulatory affairs for F.L.N.A., when she spoke March 23 at Wellness 11, an event in Chicago put on by the Institute of Food Technologists. F.L.N.A. will use colorants from the natural sources of paprika extracts, turmeric extracts, annatto extracts and caramel color.

The issue of synthetic colors drew attention in 2008 when the F.D.A. received a petition from the Center for Science in the Public Interest stating eight artificial colorings are linked to hyperactivity and behavior problems in children and should be prohibited from use in food. The eight dyes were Yellow No. 5, Red No. 40, Blue No. 1, Blue No. 2, Green No. 3, Orange B, Red No. 3 and Yellow No. 6.

The C.S.P.I. cited several studies, including the 1970s research of Ben Feingold, a medical doctor who studied allergies and hyperactive children, and a 2004 meta-analysis. Another study at the University of Southampton in the United Kingdom focused on artificial colors and hyperactive children, and it was published in 2007 in The Lancet.

Before the March 30-31 meeting, the F.D.A.’s Food Advisory Committee issued background documents. The committee in those documents concluded, “Based on our review of the data from published literature, F.D.A. concludes that a casual relationship between exposure to color additives and hyperactivity in children in the general population has not been established. For certain susceptible children with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder and other problem behaviors, however, the data suggest that their condition may be exacerbated by exposure to a number of substances in food, including, but not limited to, synthetic color additives. Findings from relevant clinical trials indicate that the effects on their behavior appear to be due to a unique intolerance to these substances and not to any inherent neurotoxic properties.”

The F.D.A.’s Food Advisory Committee, by a count of 13-1, voted that additional studies are necessary to address any questions that have been raised as to whether, and under what conditions, the continued use of the certified color additives is safe.

Studying the effect of food colors on children is not easy, said Keith Ayoob, associate clinical professor of pediatrics at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in Bronx, N.Y.

“There is considerable misinterpretation of recent research linking food colors and hyperactivity,” Dr. Ayoob said. “At first glance, a study may appear to show an association, but when you consider other important factors that could be responsible for the results, such as gender, maternal education level, pretrial diet, and other factors, it becomes impossible to affirm that the change in behavior was due to food colors.”

While speaking March 25 during an IFIC-sponsored webinar, he said results may depend on whether parents or teachers rate the children. Also, a child at 10 a.m. at school may behave differently than the same child at bedtime around his parents, he said.

Dr. Ayoob, who works with hyperactive children, said many synthetic colors are found in “treat” foods such as candy. He said 8 oz of candy for an 8-year-old is excessive no matter if it has synthetic colors or not. A balanced diet may reduce the consumption of synthetic colors until it perhaps becomes a non-issue, he said.

Color innovations focus on transparency, luster effects

Food Ingredient Solutions, L.L.C., Teterboro, N.J., has introduced FISclear, a line of transparent, stable micro-emulsion colors, extracts and oils made from paprika, beta carotene, lycopene, carrot oil, palm carotene and canthaxanthin. Food Ingredient Solutions has installed an additional 450 tonnes of high-temperature/pressure-emulsification capacity to meet anticipated demand.

The initial FISclear color and extract product line includes astaxanthin, beta carotene (natural and nature-identical), apo-carotenal, carrot oil, lycopene, palm carotene and paprika micro-emulsions. The colors and extracts provide a range of shades from pale to greenish yellow through various peach, orange and pink tones to a rich, deep red. Applications include clear confections as well as beverages.


Sensient Colors L.L.C., St. Louis,

now offers SensiPearl, a pearlescent pigment product line. SensiPearl

technology differentiates food products through luster effects, color shifts and iridescent shimmers, according to Sensient Colors, a business unit of Sensient Technologies Corp. The mica and titanium dioxide based pigments are approved by the Food and Drug Administration. They have been shown to add visual effects to foods such as cereals, confections, frosting, marshmallows, gelatin desserts, hard and soft candies, and chewing gum.

“SensiPearl is available in a one-step SpectraCoat pearl dispersion application,” said Gale Myers, manager of application development. “A patent-pending process, this evenly distributed coating system produces a high-gloss appearance, reduces dusting during processing, and may reduce the need for specialized spray equipment.”

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