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FDA Panel Examines Possible Links Between Food Dyes, ADHD
Date:3/30/2011

By Steven Reinberg
HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, March 30 (HealthDay News) -- An expert panel convened by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is meeting Wednesday and Thursday to see if there's a link between commonly used food dyes and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and if so, what should be done.

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

Right now, the FDA says there's not enough evidence to definitively say that food dyes contribute to ADHD, and no one is expecting a ban on specific food dyes anytime soon. However, the FDA is asking the panel if certain foods might need to contain a warning label, and if more research should be done.

The agency is not required to follow its panels' recommendations, but it usually does.

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

And 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 is significant because it is "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 assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at Columbia Psychiatry and the New York State Psychiatric Institute in New York City.

Schab, who's slated to testify at the hearing, called it "a big step forward."

The question the panel is dealing with is do the dyes cause ADHD, or might they simply trigger some nonspecific behaviors, such as irritability and insomnia, Schab said.

Jeff Cronin, a spokesman for the Center for Science in the Public Interest -- which ha
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