Wieckowski introduces warning label bill on synthetic food dyes in children

Center for Science in the Public Interest says some children suffer adverse behavioral reactions after ingesting food dyes

February 16, 2017

Sacramento – Citing mounting scientific evidence that synthetic food dyes contained in child-oriented food products trigger hyperactivity and other behavioral problems in some children with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and other behavioral disorders, State Senator Bob Wieckowski (D-Fremont) introduced Senate Bill 504 today to require warning labels on all food containing synthetic dyes in California.

“It’s important for parents to have this information as they seek ways to help their children who suffer from behavioral problems,” Wieckowski said.  “Raising awareness through warning labels will educate parents about the adverse effects of food dye and empower them to make better-informed choices when they are shopping.  These labels are in use in the European Union and Great Britain, and California parents deserve to be aware of the effects too.”

“Mounting evidence demonstrates that synthetic dyes are not safe for many of our children,” said Dr. Alan Greene, a practicing pediatrician in Menlo Park, and author of Feeding Baby Green. “California parents deserve fair warnings on food labels that dyes can trigger hyperactivity and other behavioral problems in some children.”

The federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has acknowledged the growing body of evidence, concluding that “Exposure to food and food components, including artificial food colors and preservatives, may be associated with adverse behaviors, not necessarily related to hyperactivity, in certain susceptible children with ADHD and other problem behaviors, and possibly in susceptible children from the general population.” 

But the FDA has failed to protect children from food dyes, such as Yellow 5, Red 40 and many others.  About 30 double-blind studies have investigated the effects of artificial colorings and other suspect additives.  There’s a growing consensus among physicians and researchers that excluding food dyes and certain other foods reduces adverse behavior in some children.

“We hope California enacts the sensible and science-based legislation being introduced today,” said Michael F. Jacobson, executive director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), co-sponsor of the bill.  “As long as the FDA is going to remain firmly planted on the sidelines, it makes perfect sense for California and other states to protect kids and their families from synthetic dyes.”  

The CSPI released a report in 2016, Seeing Red: Time for Action on Dyes. Studies in the report found a connection between food dyes and adverse behavior linked to doses considerably lower than what’s found in products, such as Kool-Aid Burst Cherry and Sunny D Orange Strawberry . 

“This modest disclosure helping parents make informed choices about what they feed their children is long overdue,” said Ed Howard, senior counsel at the Children’s Advocacy Institute at the University of San Diego School of Law, a co-sponsor of SB 504.

Senator Wieckowski represents the 10th District, which includes southern Alameda County and northeast Santa Clara County.