Red #40, Yellow #5, and Blue #2, Oh My! The Current Research on Food Dye

Red #40, Yellow #5, and Blue #2, Oh My! The Current Research on Food Dye

Do food dyes really cause behavioral issues, including hyperactivity, ADHD and other neurobehavioral disorders? While the suggestion, originally introduced by a pediatric allergist in the 1970’s, has raged quite the debate, new research released in 2021 by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has brought the topic back to the top of minds.  


While challengers who believe the dose is more important than the dye itself cite a small trial published in Pediatrics in 1978, updated research from the mid-90’s and early 2000’s, as well as this newest report, led the researchers to suggest that the ADI (acceptable daily intake) should be updated as current FDA guidelines are based on studies ranging from 35 to 70 years ago.  


Obviously, a lot has changed in that time, as more and more packaged products have made their way onto shelves, homes and even schools. In fact, according to the trusted childrens nutrition blog, Plant Based Juniors, one of the study findings is that “children are exposed to higher amounts of food dyes than adult women.”  Another, suggesting there may be a genetic component that determines if “a child with ADHD will have exacerbated hyperactivity symptoms from consuming food dyes,” is especially concerning, as is the finding that some kids have higher sensitivity to the effects of food dyes, with or without ADHD.


From candy to condiments, cereal to chips, sports drinks to soda and ek!, even some vitamins and supplements (obviously not Vitaminis), food dyes are simply an additive (derived from petroleum) used to make foods more visually appealing.  Unfortunately, many of those eye-catching foods are targeted towards our kids.  Rather than stress, simply check your labels and be conscious when possible, with the knowledge that while a single serving likely won’t affect behavior, long term exposure is at best, unnecessary.   

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