Food Dyes, Cancer, Hyperactivity and Parenting

It is now coming to light that many food dyes are known or suspected to be carcinogenic. I find it interesting that the Reagan administration specifically prevented the banning of Red 3, even thought the FDA already recognized it as a carinogen.–.html

In addition to their carcinogenicity, this article refers to dyes causing hyperactivity in children. I have personally suspected dyes to be implicated in causing bad behaviour in my own son, but this is of course not something I can prove, and especially given the fact that they are usually present in candy in conjunction with large amounts of sugar, which, as I mentioned in a previous post, has been shown to cause increased ‘inappropriate behaviour’. Nonetheless, I am suspicious of dyes and avoid giving them to my child.

Since I was on the subject of dyes, I thought I would look into whether there has been any clear link shown between them and hyperaactivity. Most mainstream articles will refer to ‘anecdotal evidence’ or a ‘belief that dyes are related to hyperactivity’, but no more than that.

The following study did show that when children with ADD were given a large dose of food dyes, as a challenge after eating dye-free foods for several days, they showed impaired performance on tests, although non-ADD children were not affected in this way.
Whether they cause hyperactivity or not, the fact that they cause cancer is enough to get them on my no-no list when it comes to feeding my son. I find it interesting that when we go out, people frequently offer him candy, sometimes to please him when he is upset, but sometimes just as a reward for being his cute self. Lately, when these grinning would-be tooth fairies approach brandishing some brightly colored ball of corn syrup and Red 3 on a stick, I throw myself between my son and the offending offering and with round eyes, say in a hushed voice ‘Thank you but, no, he is allergic!”.
I know they mean well, but I also know that if he eats that thing, there will be Hell for me to pay later on.

My son has been a really good sport about this. When we go into a grocery store, he points to the candy, gum, potato chips, etc and declares “That’s junk, it will make you fat!”
I don’t know where he got the part about it making you fat. I only said it would make you sick.
Unfortunately, three-year-olds are known to be uncommonly candid and lately he has taken to commenting about other people at the store and what’s in their grocery carts. As we pass an overweight man with a cartfull of Fritos and Coke, my son explains in a loud voice, “That man’s really fat cause he eats a lot of junk!”.
I feel obligated to show some kind of displeasure even though I know that the best strategy to squelch a behaviour is to ignore it completely, so I say something like “It’s not nice to comment about how other people look. It hurts their feelings”. But then I have to admit to him, when we’re out of earshot, that he’s probably right about the cause of that man’s weight problem, although that’s not a reason to be rude about it.
We pass a package of freezer pops and my son says “Mommy! I want that!”. I ask him why he wants it. Is it because it has pictures on the outside that make it look like there is something fun inside? He says it is. So I explain to him that the people who make that product put those pictures on there on purpose to make little kids want to buy it, but that just because it has nice pictures on the outside doesn’t mean it has something good on the inside and that as a matter of fact, there is only junk on the inside.
He looks at mean and said ‘Yeeeaaaaah?’ in amazement, but he no longer wants the freezer pops.


One response to “Food Dyes, Cancer, Hyperactivity and Parenting

  1. It must be hard for youngsters to come to terms with the fact that not only some people, but many people out there, perhaps – in a way – most people out there, would try to hurt them, under the guise of attractive packaging.

    It’s hard for adults to come to terms with that.

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