FDA Recommends More Studies on Artificial Colors

April 1, 2011

An FDA panel narrowly voted against warning labels for products with artificial colors, but did urge for more science.

At the conclusion of FDA’s March meeting on food coloring, an expert panel voted 8-6 against requiring warning labels on artificially-colored foods by. Still, reports indicate that a majority of the panel (all but one member) stated that more research should be conducted on the safety of artificial colors.

FDA currently allows nine artificial dyes to be used in foods, beverages, dietary supplements, cosmetics, and pharmaceuticals. The list of colors include Red 40, Yellow 5, and Yellow 6. They are generally cheaper, more stable, and brighter than natural color alternatives.

In Europe, warning labels are required on products containing these dyes, based on the notion that the dyes may pose a safety risk to consumers, including risk of hyperactivity in children and allergic responses.

FDA questioned the expert panel on whether artificial food colors have been conclusively linked to hyperactivity in children, but one vocal critic says FDA asked the wrong question.

"The question they should have asked is, 'Is there proof the dyes are safe?'" said Michael Jacobson of the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI; Washington, DC), according to the Los Angeles Times.

CSPI recently proposed a ban on the nine artificial food dyes.