Mars, Incorporated, the company most known for its colorful candies M&M’s, announced that it will remove artificial dyes from more than 50 of its products. The company has been pressured to do so by Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) and a petition with more than 200,000 signatures. But it may be too early to celebrate. Not only will it take five years for Mars to develop new coloring ingredients, it is also hard to trust the company that refuses to admit that there is a lot of evidence of synthetic food dyes causing hyperactivity and other behavioral and health issues, particularly in children.
Completely ignoring the growing number of studies pointing to dyes link to health issues, Mars claims that artificial food dyes have “no known risks to human health or safety.” Instead, the company stated that it will remove the artificial dyes in order to “meet evolving consumer preferences” and not because of health reasons.
But in fact, there are many health risks associated with synthetic food dyes.
Health Risks of Synthetic Food Dyes
CSPI has published a report “Seeing Red” about everything we know so far about the health impact of food dyes. First the negative effects of dyes have been noticed by an allergist in 1970s, and since then more than 30 studies have been conducted, and they are pointing to the dyes’ involvement in behavioral issues in children, especially hyperactivity.
That is especially alarming when recent calculations concluded that children today consume higher amounts of food dyes than were previously studied. Americans in general consume five times more dyes today than they did in 1950s. It has also been estimated that it costs the country $5 billion every year in medical bills to deal with the health issues caused by artificial food dyes.
These dyes have no nutritional benefits, and the only reason for their existence is purely because of aesthetics.
Same Companies that Removed Artificial Dyes from Their Products Sold in Europe, Still Use Them in the US
After seeing all the evidence of adverse effects of food dyes, the British government and the European Union made it a requirement that a warning label was placed on most dyed food products. The British government also encourages food companies to find alternatives to synthetic dyes.
As the result, most companies had to reformulate their products before selling them in Europe, in order to avoid putting a warning label that may scare off the customers.
Unfortunately, the same companies sell the same products in the US using the old formulas – full of food dyes.
Mars, for example, removed Yellow 5, Yellow 6 and Red 40 from their products sold in Europe, yet kept them in the products sold in the US.
Instead of Removing the Dyes, Mars Will Be Creating New Ones
Instead of removing food dyes altogether, and teaching our children to love chocolate for its taste, not rainbow colors, Mars stated that it is committed to keeping its products, especially M&M’s candies, as colorful as always.
How are they going to do that? – by manufacturing “new ingredients and formulas.” Although they claim the dyes will be “natural,” the current evidence shows that natural food dyes are not as bright as synthetic ones, and often come out pastel. The question in the minds of many consumers right now is whether the creation of these new dyes, even if derived from fruits and vegetables, will require extra chemicals to make the colors bright. And if these new chemicals like all of the formerly used ones can cause health issues, then this whole change may be useless.
The Next Step Is To Ban Food Dyes
To make sure the companies do not use food dyes without having to petition them is of course to petition the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to ban synthetic food dyes altogether.
This petition is looking for more supporters right now in order to “Tell the FDA to Ban Harmful Synthetic Food Dyes.” Meanwhile, the creator is asking FDA to require a warning label on food and beverages that contain artificial dyes.
“There is simply too much evidence demonstrating that these artificial dyes trigger inattention, hyperactivity, and other behavioral reactions in children. The use of these neurotoxic chemicals to provide a purely cosmetic function in foods, particularly foods designed to appeal to children, must stop,” stated CSPI President Michael F. Jacobson.