F.D.A. panel: No warning labels needed for colors

by Jeff Gelski
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WASHINGTON — The Food Advisory Committee of the Food and Drug Administration, by a count of 8 to 6, voted against disclosing additional information on the product label of foods containing certified color additives to ensure their safe use. Also while meeting Wednesday and Thursday, 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,” the Washington-based International Food Information Council said. “The scientific evidence currently does not show that food colors cause or exacerbate hyperactivity or other behavior problems in the majority of children.”

IFIC also said it believed warning labels are not needed for products with artificial colors.

“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.”

Earlier this week the F.D.A.’s Food Advisory Committee issued background documents for the meeting on Wednesday and Thursday that focused on “certified color additives in food and possible association with attention deficit hyperactive disorder in children.”

In the background documents, the committee in its conclusion said, “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.”

In 2008, 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 in their petition. The studies included Ben Feingold’s research in the 1970s 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.

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