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Australians may follow European lead in banning food dyes that are still legal in the USA; several are linked with of childhood cancer, hyperactivity and allergies

Research by CSPI (Center for Science in the Public Interest) in the USA suggests that the three most commonly and widely used dyes, Red 40, Yellow 5 and Yellow 6, are contaminated with known carcinogens. Red 3, another dye, has already been acknowledged by the US FDA (Food and Drug Administration) as a carcinogen but it is still in the food supply.

Manufacturers in the USA use approximately 15 million pounds of 8 synthetic dyes in foods (a five-fold increase since1995) mainly in brightly colored cereals, drinks and candies aimed mainly at children.
Blue 1, Red 40 and Yellow 6 are also well known to cause allergic reactions and even though they are not common, the reactions can be serious. Some dyes also cause hyperactivity in a significant number of children.

As long ago as 1985 Red 3, a less commonly used dye, had been shown to induce cancer yet approximately 200,000 pounds of Red 3 is still used in foods in the USA each year. Laboratory animal tests on Blue 1, Blue 2, Green 3, Red 40, Yellow 5, and Yellow 6 also revealed signs of causing cancer, while Yellow 5 caused mutations, an indication of possible carcinogenicity, in six of 11 tests.

However, the link to cancer is the most worrying. In 1985, the FDA acting commissioner said that Red 3, a less commonly used dye "has clearly been shown to induce cancer" and was "of greatest public health concern." John R. Block, Secretary of Agriculture, urged the US Department of Health and Human Services not to ban the dye - and it was not banned. According to CSPI, approximately 200,000 pounds of Red 3 is used in foods in the USA annually.

Laboratory animal tests on Blue 1, Blue 2, Green 3, Red 40, Yellow 5, and Yellow 6 have revealed signs of causing cancer, CSPI informs. Yellow 5 also caused mutations, an indication of possible carcinogenicity, in six of 11 tests.

These dyes have no nutritional value, only being used to enhance the look of the foods.

In the UK the government asked companies to phase out most dyes by December 31 2009, because of concerns about dyes' impairment to childhood behavior. A warning notice on most dyed foods will be required by European Union countries by July 20th 2010.

As a result McDonald's Strawberry Sundaes in the UK are coloured with strawberries, while in the USA the same product has Red dye 40.  In the UK Fanta (a fizzy drink) gets its bright orange color from pumpkin and carrot extract, while in the USA it comes from Red 40 and Yellow 6. Starburst Chews and Skittles, both Mars products, contain synthetic dyes in the United States, but not in Britain.

The FSANZ (Food Standards Australia New Zealand), as well as the US FDA are looking closely at the new findings.

Courtesy Medical News Today 

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First Published in July 2010