Food Dyes, Children’s Behaviour, and Implementations for Policy

Evidence linking food dyes to adverse behaviour in children continues to grow:

  • ŸThree separate meta analyses provide evidence that link food dyes to adverse behaviour in sensitive children
  • When it comes to ADHD, food dyes are likely part of a larger story. There is a small, but real effect on ADHD and other food additives may worsen the problem. Most effects that food dyes had on children were immediate. Research demonstrated that there were behavioural effects on children with and without ADHD. The dose of food dye required to have an effect is not known, but children had effects even with small doses.
  • Eliminating food dyes from children’s diet is a potentially valuable treatment for children with ADHD.

In addition to the above, evidence has linked food dyes to Cancer and allergic reactions:

  • Ÿ Food dyes linked to Cancer: Red 3/erythrosine, Yellow 5/tartrazine, Yellow 6/Sunset Yellow FCF, Red 40/allura red, Caramel, Red 40 – p-cresidine
  • Food dyes linked to allergic reactions – Blue 1/brilliant blue FCF, Red 40/allura red, Yellow 5/tartrazine, Yellow 6/sunset yellow FCF; annatto, carmine, cochineal

Unlike the USA and Canada, foods in the U.K. that contain food dyes, must have a warning label stating that the food dyes may have an adverse effect on activity and attention in children. This has caused many companies to stop putting food dyes into the foods, to prevent having to put a warning label on their food.

Canada is behind the USA when it comes to labeling food dyes. In the USA, food and beverage manufacturers must label each specific colour, while in Canada, simply writing “Colour” in the ingredient is sufficient. This leaves Canadians not knowing the specific food dyes contained in their foods beverages.

Thank you to our speakers:

Dr. Nigg specializes in diagnostic assessment and treatment planning for children with attention and learning disorders. He is a leading expert on ADHD/ADD, and his extensive and ongoing original scientific research in this area helps inform his consultations to families and other clinicians. Dr. Niggs directs the OHSU ADHD and Attention Program where they conduct extensive research to discover the causes of ADHD.

Lisa Y. Lefferts is senior scientist at CSPI and focuses primarily on food additives. She has worked as a public health scientist with public interest organizations for over thirty years.   Currently she is working on a report summarizing the research on behavioral reactions to food dyes and the regulatory response in the U.S. Prior to her work at CSPI, she served on the US Food and Drug Administration Food Advisory Committee that considered the link between artificial food dyes and hyperactivity.

Click here to download the PDF slides from this webinar.

See below for the webinar recording: