Kraft’s Guacamole Dip in the dairy case looks tempting — until you learn that its vibrant green color doesn’t come from avocados (there are almost none in it) but from synthetic food dyes Yellow 5, Yellow 6 and Blue 1.
Think Aunt Jemima Blueberry Waffles have real blueberries? The blue color actually comes from Red 40 and Blue 2.
And don’t even think that the colors of Kellogg’s Froot Loops, other sugary cereals and General Mills’ Fruit Roll-Ups have anything to do with real fruit. You can thank synthetic dyes for brightening up those foods, too.
While the use of food dyes has been a concern for years, the nonprofit watchdog group Center for Science in the Public Interest last week made a plea to the Food and Drug Administration to ban the chemical in American foods.
These dyes have been suspected of causing hyperactivity in children since the 1970s, when Dr. Ben Feingold, a San Francisco allergist, noted that his patients improved when they avoided the ingredient.
Controlled studies conducted over the next 30 years in the United States, Europe and Australia confirmed that the synthetic dyes worsened the behavior of some children, according to the Washington-based consumer group.
The FDA has disputed these results. “Well-controlled studies since then have produced no evidence that food color additives cause hyperactivity or learning disabilities in children,” the FDA says on its Web site.
Of particular urgency is the fact that Americans’ exposure to these dyes has risen sharply over the years. In 1955, the amount of food dye certified for use by the FDA was 12 milligrams per capita per day. Today, that certified use has leapt to 59 milligrams per capita per day — nearly five times as much.
The center has filed a petition asking the FDA to require a warning label on foods with artificial dyes until it acts on the organization’s request to ban the dyes altogether.