New European law requires warning labels on foods with artificial colors
JULY 25, 2010
BY: ALICIA BAYER
Europe has moved one step closer in protecting kids from the harmful effects of artificial food coloring. Starting this week, foods and drinks that contain six artificial food colorings linked to hyperactivity in children will be required to contain a warning label.
The colors are used around the world in products such as breakfast cereal, toothpaste, vitamins, candy, fruit drinks, lunch meats, medicines and just about any food available.
The UK's Food Standards Agency released this statement about the changes:
An EU-wide health warning must now be put on any food or drink that still contains the colours that are thought to cause hyperactivity in some children. This is following the Southampton Study, commissioned by the Agency, which suggested a possible link between consumption of six food colours and hyperactivity in children.
The colours are Tartrazine (E102), Quinoline Yellow (E104), Sunset Yellow (E110), Carmoisine (E122), Ponceau 4R (E124) and Allura Red (E129).
Any food and drink containing any of the six colours, except drinks with more than 1.2% alcohol, will now have to provide a warning on the label that the colour ‘may have effects on activity and attention in children’. This becomes mandatory across the EU from 20 July 2010. Food and drink produced before 20 July 2010 can continue to be marketed, so it may take time for newly labelled products to appear on some store shelves.
Over the past few years, the Agency has worked with the UK food industry to voluntarily remove the six colours from food and drink, and make this information available to consumers. But the new mandatory warning will make it easier for people to choose products that are free from these colours.
These additives are known by different names in the United States. Three of them are widely used in the U.S. On labels here, they are known as:
All three dyes are widely believed to be carcinogenic (cancer causing), as well.
Because of Europe's crackdown on artificial colors, companies use far fewer in the UK than in the United States. For example, McDonald's Strawberry Sundae syrups get their color from fresh strawberries in Europe. In the United States, the color comes from Red dye 40. In the UK, Fanta orange soda coloring comes from pumpkins and carrot extract. Here, the color comes from Red 40 and Yellow 6 dye.
“At this point, American food manufacturers and regulators alike should be embarrassed that we’re feeding kids foods with chemicals that have such a powerfully disruptive impact on children’s behavior,” says Michael F. Jacobson of The Center for Science in the Public Interest. “European officials are taking the issue much more seriously, and are moving toward a safer food supply as a result.”
Some companies are changing to meet consumer demand for natural food dyes in the US even without protective warnings and better laws. More products are being made with natural colorings such as turmeric and beets. Some Southern Minnesota farmers are even raising a special (non-GMO) variety of burgandy corn for its use as a natural red food coloring.
For more information about food dyes, their links to behavior problems (and health concerns) and measures that have been taken to change laws in the U.S., see the CSPI's report here.