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FDA Panel Delays Action on Dyes Used in Foods
Date:4/1/2011

By Steven Reinberg
HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, March 31 (HealthDay News) -- Foods that contain dyes used to enhance color don't need warning labels, a U.S. Food and Drug Administration advisory panel said Thursday.

The advisers' 8-6 vote came in response to concerns, especially from parents, that the commonly used dyes might be linked to attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in some children.

The advisory panel made its recommendation based on the FDA's evaluation of existing data, as well as testimony from researchers. It was the lack of rigorous studies, as well as a lack of data, that prompted the panel to ask for more research into the issue and delay a recommendation on artificial food colorings, CNN reported.

The issue pitted the food industry against some parents, public watchdog groups and academics who've long agitated for a closer look at the additives.

The FDA advisers, concluding two days of hearings that featured parents, scientists and food-industry representatives, said there wasn't enough evidence to definitively say that food dyes contribute to ADHD. The FDA is not required to follow the recommendations of its advisory panels, but it usually does so.

Artificial dyes are added to many foods including JELL-O, Lucky Charms, Pop-Tarts, Nestles Butterfinger bars, Hostess Twinkies and Frito-Lay Doritos, to name a few, according to the Center for Science in the Public Interest.

The FDA does have regulatory authority over food additives. For example, in 1976, Red No. 2 was banned because it might be cancer-causing.

This week's meeting was significant because it was "the first time the FDA has acknowledged that food dyes may affect children in a limited way," said Dr. David Schab, a psychiatric researcher and an assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at Columbia University Medical Center and the New York State Psychiatric Institute in New York City.

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