The Food and Drug Administration (“FDA”) recently released results from exposure assessments it conducted, which indicated that most American children are exposed to dyes in food.  Although the full results have not yet been published, the FDA presented these results on August 13th at the 248th National Meeting of the American Chemical Society.

The exposure assessment was conducted after a 2011 request from the FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition’s Food Advisory Committee for additional research into whether a causal link could be established between children consuming food dyes and behavioral problems in children.  At that time, the FDA had concluded that no causal link could be established.  The most recent exposure assessment reviewed the amount of color food dyes in almost 600 food products and a review of drug data from two days of the 2007-2010 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey of food consumption.  In the exposure assessment, the FDA found that at least 96 percent of children between the ages of two and five are exposed to the following synthetic food dyes:  (1) Red 40; (2) Yellow 5; (3) Yellow 6; and (4) Blue 1.

Currently, there are nine types of food color additives that have been approved for use in food. Two of the dyes are regulated for only specific purposes, while the rest are approved for general use in food.  Prior studies have shown a connection between some of these dyes and adverse behavioral problems in children.

In response to the FDA’s exposure analysis, Lisa Lefferts from the Center for Science in the Public Interest (“CSPI”) said that “such widespread exposure to artificially colored foods is bad news for all children, since artificially colored foods aren’t healthy foods in the first place.  The FDA is failing kids and parents by allowing the use of these purely cosmetic chemicals in food, which trigger behavioral problems in some children . . . .”  The CSPI believes that the FDA should ban Yellow 5, Yellow 6, Red 40, and five other food dyes.

The FDA plans to conduct further research into this issue.  Particularly, the FDA will estimate exposure by using 14-day food consumption data in the future.