Here's some background info: There are currently nine artificial dyes approved for use in the U.S. Most of these dyes were approved almost 80 years ago. Every few years, their use comes in to question and every few years, the FDA insists that they are safe.
But recently, two studies were published that had some folks changing their tune about the use of artifical food dyes. The studies, sponsored by the British government, found that there may be a link between the consumption of artificial food dyes and hyperactivity in children. Unlike previous studies, which focused primarily on children who were already diagnosed with a hyperactivity disorder, the British studies evaluated children in the general population.
This new research prompted the British government to urge food manufacturers to discontinue the use of six artificial dyes, and the European Parliament to require foods with those dyes to carry a warning label. The research also spurred a petition from the Center for Science in the Public Interest to ask the FDA to reevaluate the use of these dyes in the U.S.
The FDA rejected the notion that foods made with artifical dyes in the U.S. should carry a warning label. According to Tim Jones, Tennessee’s deputy state epidemiologist and a member of the panel, "If we put a label that long on every chemical and ingredient that hasn’t been adequately studied . . . you wouldn’t see the package anymore.” Huh? So that's the reason that we should allow questionable food dyes in our food? Because there's so much other crap in there that hasn't been studied properly, so what does it matter?
This is the part that really gets me steamed. This idea we have in the U.S. that unless we the consumer can prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that an ingredient is going to kill, harm, or maim us, we have to let it in. It's the same story with food that it is for kids' toys, cleaning products, and chemicals in our home. What gives?
In Europe, it's the other way around. Manufacturers (of food/cleaners/furniture/etc.) have the responsibility to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that every chemical and ingredient in their product is safe for humans. If they can't prove it, they can't use it.
Why do we get this so backwards in the U.S. and how can we get it turned around?
Oh, and as an additional note, the FDA panel did find that there is sufficient evidence to suggest that artifical food dyes may in fact cause hyperactivity. They recommended further studies be conducted. Whew, I feel so much better now.