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FDA looks at link between dyes and hyperactivity

March 30, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
A Food and Drug Administration advisory committee met in Washington on Wednesday to examine the link between dyes found in everyday foods and hyperactivity in children. The two-day meeting is in response to reports the food additives may set off irrational behavior in kids.

The FDA says there is no proven link between food dyes and hyperactivity in most children. But hyperactivity and other behavioral problems in some children may be exacerbated by these types of dyes.

As a mother of two boys who are already pretty active, Colleen Johnston said she is very careful about the kinds of foods she gives her kids.

"I've always heard ever since I started having kids to stay away from the red dye. It's kind of the thing to watch out for," she said.

One mom said the dyes set off a wave of fury in her child.

"At one point, she was actually clawing at her own face with her finger nails," said Kristen Rapp.

Rapp noticed her 3-year-old daughter Trixie had tantrums after eating a pink fluff sandwich.

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder is diagnosed in nearly 5.5 million American kids. The food industry insists "the safety of artificial colors has been affirmed through extensive review."

While there's no proven link, earlier studies have suggested it might trigger or worsen hyperactivity in children with certain sensitivities.

In 2008, the Center for Science in the Public Interest filed a petition asking red, yellow and six other dyes be banned.

Dr. Richard Besser, ABC News' senior health and medical editor, said a change in food labels may be an option.

"Not a label that says that food dyes cause hyperactivity, but something in the order of 'For some children with hyperactivity, food dyes may worsen their condition,'" Besser said.

The panel of experts will recommend on Thursday whether the FDA should further regulate the dyes, do more studies on the issues or require better labeling. It's possible the advisory committee may recommend the agency do nothing at all.

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