American Children Consume Loads Of Artificial Colors

At Naturally Savvy we continually warn about the effects of artificial food colors (AFCs), particularly on children. A recently published study found that the amount of AFCs allowed in food and beverages in the U.S. has increased five fold, per capita, from 1950 to 2012. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) allows nine different colors. Purdue University scientists looked at the amount of artificial food colors in beverages, foods, and sweets and found that a child could easily consume 100 mg of AFCs in one day, and some children could consume over 200 mg a day. The researchers concluded that “many children could be consuming far more dyes than previously thought.”

Read more about artificial color and health concerns

Cereals are something that children commonly eat for breakfast. Researchers found that many cereals contain a staggering amount of AFCs. Take General Mills’ Trix cereal, which lists Yellow 6, Blue 1 and Red 40 in its ingredients list. According to the study, Trix had 36.4 milligrams of AFCs. Fruity Cheerios had 31 milligrams. The cereal with the highest levels of AFCs was Cap’n Crunch’s Oops! All Berries with 41 milligrams.

Sweets have even higher levels of AFCs. Target's Mini Green Cupcakes had 55.3 mg of Yellow 5, Blue 1, Yellow 6, and Red 40, the highest amount found in any food. Skittles had the highest levels in candies. Skittles Originals had 33.3 mg per serving. M&M’s Milk Chocolate had 29.5 mg per serving. Both are manufactured by Mars, Inc.

The largest source of AFCs in the American diet is from beverages, the researchers discovered. There are high amounts in 8-ounce servings, including 18 mg in Full Throttle Red Berry energy drink, 22.1 mg in Powerade Orange Sports Drink, 33.6 mg in Crush Orange, 41.5 mg in Sunny D Orange Strawberry, and 52.3 mg per serving in Kool-Aid Burst Cherry.

The study is the first to look at the amounts of AFCs in food and beverage products. Center for Science In the Public Interest (CSPI) executive director Michael F. Jacobson says:

“Until now, how much of these neurotoxic chemicals are used in specific foods was a well-kept secret. I suspect that food manufacturers themselves don't even know. But now it is clear that many children are consuming far more dyes than the amounts shown to cause behavioral problems in some children. The cumulative impact of so much dyed foods in children's diets, from breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks, is a partial reason why behavioral problems have become more common.”

Read: An (Unplanned) Artificial Color Experiment

There are a number of studies which show that there is a link between AFCs and hyperactivity. Since the 1970s, scientists have looked at that link and there have been dozens of studies over the last 40 years that looked at how AFCs and other ingredients can affect children’s behavior. In 2011, the FDA evaluated the various studies and concluded that there may be a link. However, the federal agency has yet to take any kind of action to regulate the use of AFCs or require warning labels. The FDA’s lack of regulation is very different than in Europe. The European Parliament requires a warning label on an food and beverage that contains certain AFCs. The label must state that the AFCs “may have an adverse effect on activity and attention in children”

If you want to protect yourself and your children from AFCs, check out our book "Unjunk Your Junk Food: Healthier Alternatives To Conventional Snacks."

Image: Brittany Randolph

By Andrea Donsky| May 27, 2014
Categories:  Nest

About the Author

Andrea Donsky

Andrea Donsky

Founder & Chief Passionista at See my full bio here.

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