Sunshine, lollipops and a rainbow of risk: Food dyes and your child
Synthetic food dyes have been shrouded in controversy since their introduction to market over 50 years ago. Given many of these dyes are derived from coal tar or petroleum, it is unsurprising that they can negatively affect our health. As science has advanced with time, many dyes have been removed from market as they posed increased likelihood of cancer, genetic mutations as well as nervous tissue damage. For example, previously wide spread use of dyes such Green 1 and Red 1 was ceased after they were shown to induce liver cancer. Additionally, research has shown individuals who are naturally hypersensitive to these dyes can have life threatening immune reactions with some papers have drawing moderate causal links between worsening of ADHD symptoms and exposure to certain food dyes. In the United Kingdom, approximately 30% of children under eleven years of age have experienced issues with food additive consumption, so much so that the European Union requires some food products containing synthetic colours to include the phrase “May have an adverse effect on activity and attention in children” on their label.
“May have an adverse effect on activity and attention in children”So which dyes are ok and which ones are best avoided? A report commissioned by the American Center for Science in the Public Interest, suggests nine of the currently approved food dyes may not be as innocuous as the humble fairy bread sprinkles would have you think. The top three dyes of interest in Australia include:
- Tartrazine (102) and sunset yellow FCF (110) – some studies show mild allergic reactions
- Allura red AC (129) aka Red 40 – most widely used dye; controversial evidence regarding some mice studies showing tumour development. Contributed to food hypersensitivity reactions in children.
- Erythrosine 127 – some studies show increased incidence of tumour. World Health Organisation concluded the colour is safe, however it’s use is restricted to glace cherries in Australia