Essay on Food Coloring and Synthetic Dyes

Submitted By Lavonne-J
Words: 1685
Pages: 7

Lavonne Joseph
Professor Henry
ENC 1101
21 April 2014
Toxic Dyes: The Dangers of Artificial Food Colors Most people have heard it said that the healthiest diet consists of a rainbow of colors. Companies that manufacture processed foods know that people prefer colorful foods for a number of reasons, mainly because they look fresher and more nutritious or because they are more vivid and fun-looking. For centuries, people and companies have been adding natural colorings to their foods to make them more appealing. In America today, nine different artificial food colorings are approved for use in the United States (Beil). These man-made synthetic colors provide no nutritional benefit to the foods that contain them. They do, however, make peas more green, they give butter it's yellow color, and they turn cola from clear to the dark brown color that people know and expect. In fact, artificial colors are in a large majority of the processed foods that are on the shelves of grocery stores today. Today's artificial dyes are mostly derived from petroleum - the same petroleum we use to fuel our cars. Over the past few decades, studies have linked these dyes to long-term health problems such as cancer, and artificial dyes have been shown to adversely affect the attention span and hyperactivity of children who consume them. Because of these findings, Britain completely phased out it's use of artificial dyes in 2009, and the European Union now requires warning labels on foods that contain certain dyes, warning that those foods “may have an adverse effect on activity and attention in children” (Mosko 36). Because of the tightening of laws concerning artificial dyes in other countries, American-based food companies such as Kellogg's and McDonald's now produce naturally-colored versions of their popular food items sold overseas. They still, however, continue to sell only the artificially-colored versions here in the United States. The laws on the legality of artificial colors in the United States need to be changed to reflect the mounting evidence of the health risks they pose, and to reflect what Britain and Europe already acknowledge. Artificial colors should be banned in America because while they add no nutritional value to the foods that contain them, they pose numerous health risks to the people who consume them. For centuries, colorings have been added to foods to make them more visually appealing. Records to support this have been documented as early as 1400 B.C. (Burrows 395). Up until the early 20th century, natural colorings that were widely used often contained mercury, lead, and copper, and therefore posed their own health risks. In the early 1900's, scientists began formulating man-made synthetic dyes derived from coal tar. At the turn of the 20th century there were roughly 80 synthetic dyes being used in food for public consumption, and no official testing had been done to determine their safety. Upon the passing of a 1908 statute known as the Wiley Act that called for government regulation of synthetic dyes, the government hired chemist Dr. Bernard Hesse to determine which dyes were safe for use. By 1938, only 15 synthetic dyes were still legal (398). In the second half of the 20th century, even more artificial dyes were found to be harmful: after Halloween in 1950, Orange #1 was banned after it was found to be the cause of many children becoming sick, and in the 1970's, testing showed that Red #2 was a potential carcinogen after it was shown to cause tumors in lab rats. Since then, Yellows # 1, #2, #3, and #4 have all been made illegal as well, and Yellow #5 is currently undergoing testing for links to hyperactivity in children, migraine headaches, anxiety issues, and cancer (Burrows 400). Despite the increase in testing that has shown artificial colors to be harmful, the American government still remains reluctant to change laws that allow them to be added to the foods that Americans eat. In the 1990's,