Headline misrepresents food dye panel's findings.

Posted by Tamara Tal at Apr 08, 2011 08:00 AM |

A recent article published in The New York Times summarizes the findings of a recent U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) panel charged with examining the risk that artificial dyes may pose to childhood hyperactivity.

The article had a deceptive title, “Artificial Dye Safe to Eat, Panel Says,” suggesting that synthetic food dyes pose no risk to childhood health.

But the panel did not say the food dyes are safe. While there was no consensus of risk to the general population of children, one of the key findings of the FDA report and expert panel was just the opposite. The report says: "For certain susceptible children with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder and other problem behaviors, the data suggest that their condition may be exacerbated by exposure to a number of substances in food, including, but not limited to, synthetic color additives."

Read another way, there is evidence that a significant number of children are particularly vulnerable to the effects of foods containing synthetic color additives. According to the Center for Disease Control, as of 2007, nearly 10 percent or 5.4 million children in the United States have been diagnosed with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder.

The panel voted 8 to 6 to recommend against food labels warning of the risk. Reporter Gardiner Harries accurately reports the close vote but fails to mention another key point. All but one of the panelists recommended further study to determine whether there is a causal relationship between synthetic dye additives and attention deficit disorder and hyperactivity in children.

Perhaps a more accurate article title would have been: “FDA recommends more research to examine food dyes and childhood hyperactivity.”


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