An interesting segment on NPR this week (http://hereandnow.wbur.org/2014/03/28/artificial-dyes-candy) pointed out the hypocrisy of American companies, who make their products with artificial colors in the US and natural colouring agents in Europe. Six years ago the British government released its studies of artificial colourings, proving that they have a clear and significant negative impact on children’s behavior and encouraging manufacturers to switch to plant dyes. Since EU legislation now requires warning labels pointing out the impact they have virtually disappeared even from brightly coloured candy, replaced by plant extracts. Most people are surprised to find out that it’s not just junk food that uses dye; even foods like mayonnaise and pickles often have artificial colour added.
Food dyes were the tipping point that led to my now thirty-plus years in natural health care. My oldest son was two and a half when he had yet another sinus infection. Since this had been a two-year battle the Doctor prescribed a new medication -Ceclor- which was expected to be the “next penicillin” in effectiveness. Micah began acting really strange, stopping in the middle of walking across a room and just screaming, or turning around and suddenly punching me in the middle of a bedtime story, all of which was really unlike him. I called the pediatrician, who told me I was “still a new mother” , that his behavior was normal, and that he probably just didn’t “feel good”. This was NOT my kid “not feeling good”. This was not my kid! On day three he had been acting normally all evening and I thought that the Doctor had been right, and that Micah was finally “feeling better”. Shortly thereafter I realized that I had forgotten his evening dose and gave it to him; within a half hour he was screaming again.
I called the pharmacist this time rather than the Pediatrician, and explained what I was seeing. He said it sounded “like a classic reaction to red dye” and asked if he was taking any of a list of medications, second or third of which was the Ceclor. He suggested a switch to another antibiotic since Ceclor “has a really high dye load”. The behavior problems did not recur after the change of antibiotics. My approach to health care did, when two full courses of the second antibiotic after the four days of Ceclor still did not resolve the infection and I decided to look into natural alternatives. (Three days of Christopher’s Sinus Support formula, garlic, and alfalfa resolved the infection, though he continued to need smaller amounts of the supplements for about a year before we replaced enough cells to make a permanent difference.)We have known about the effect for years but the FDA says it has not seen a proven “causal link” so does nothing.
Dyes aren’t the only additive for which American manufacturers have double standards. Last year I ordered pineapple coconut water from ONE, which I had been purchasing since its inception; the outer case had two ingredient lists with a box to check for which product it contained based on destination. The company is now owned by Pepsico and includes sugar and “natural flavor” in the US, while the Canadian export product still contains just coconut water and pineapple juice. Replacement product for me is Evolution Fresh coconut water, which is also raw and has a fabulous flavour! As consumers, we need to speak up. Let manufacturers know that you are OK with strawberry products that aren’t bubble-gum pink, and not OK with artificial dyes in anything. Read your labels, eat real food, and take charge of your behavior!