A consumer advocacy group in the United States has called for a ban on artificial colourings in food.
The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) wants the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to ban the use of eight artificial colorings in food on the basis that the additives may cause hyperactivity and behaviour problems in some children.
The CSPI says three decades of research from the United States, Europe and Australia has shown that children's behaviour can be negatively affected by some artificial dyes.
The CSPI wants the colourings Yellow 5, Red 40, Blue 1, Blue 2, Green 3, Orange B, Red 3, and Yellow 6 banned despite years of the FDA consistently disputing that the colours have such an effect.
The FDA maintains colour additives undergo safety reviews prior to approval for marketing and that samples of each artificial colouring are tested and say they have yet to find a reason to change their conclusions that the ingredients are safe for the general population.
Dyes, additives and chemicals are used in many foods and drinks to simulate the colour of fruits or vegetables and make them appear more attractive and this is particularly the case in cereals, candies, sodas and snack foods produced for children.
The CSPI says their purpose is often to mask the absence of real food or to increase the appeal of a low-nutrition product to children.
The CSPI wants the FDA to make it mandatory that warning labels are placed on foods with artificial dyes while it considers their demand for an outright ban of the dyes.
The British Government is currently having some success in pressuring food manufacturers to switch to safer colorings.
The CSPI says the continued use of these unnecessary artificial dyes is the secret shame of the food industry and the regulators who watch over it - their use has risen sharply and they are used in countless foods.
According to the CSPI, Kraft's Guacamole Dip gets its greenish color not from avocados (there are almost none) but from Yellow 5, Yellow 6, and Blue 1 and the blue bits in Aunt Jemima Blueberry Waffles are blue because of Red 40 and Blue 2, and not real blueberries.
General Mills' Fruit Roll-ups and Fruit-by-the-Foot flavored snacks get their fruity colors from Yellow 5, Yellow 6, Red 40, and Blue 1 and General Mills' Fruity Cheerios, Lucky Charms, and Trix also contain several of the problematic dyes, as do Kellogg's Froot Loops and Apple Jacks and Post's Fruity Pebbles.
Many varieties of Kraft's Oscar Meyer Lunchables kids' meals contain artificial food dyes, but the British versions do not and the same applies to Starburst Chews, Skittles, and M&M candies; all Mars products contain the full spectrum of artificial colors in the U.S., but not in the UK.
Several varieties of macaroni and cheese and mashed potatoes are coloured with Yellow 5 and Yellow 6, both derived from coal tar.
In Britain, the colour in McDonald's strawberry sauce for sundaes actually does come from strawberries while in the U.S. it comes from Red 40.
Experts say science shows that children's behaviour improves when artificial colourings are removed from their diets and worsens when they’re added and they say banning synthetic chemicals in food is far less drastic action than putting so many children on Ritalin or other potentially dangerous and sometimes-abused prescription stimulants.