American Kids Need to Be Weaned Off Synthetic Food Dyes

©. KIND (used with permission)

These questionable additives are found in nearly half of all foods marketed to kids.

When snack bar maker KIND launched a line of Fruit Bites made without synthetic dyes, it expected success, especially since so many parents strive to give their children clean, healthy foods. But within two years it became apparent that nobody wanted to buy the Fruit Bites. The company decided to "remove the product from shelves as kids regretfully prefer to eat fruit snacks that resembled candy gems versus the dried, whole fruit that KIND uses in its products."

Fruit Bites may be gone now, but KIND has jumped into campaigning against the use of synthetic dyes in children's foods. A dramatic display set up in New York City's Herald Square depicted the quantity of synthetic dyes that American kids consume on a daily basis – roughly 2,000 gallons. The single-day installation used "the eight synthetic dyes currently approved by the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) and highlights unsuspecting foods they can be found in – everything from microwave popcorn to pickles to fruit cups."

These synthetic dyes are a concern because, firstly, they're ingested at five times the rate of 60 years ago and are found in many popular children's foods – "95% of fruit snacks, 86% of frozen breakfasts, 57% of fruit/pudding cups, 39% of chips and crackers, among other categories." In other words, they're becoming a staple in a typical American child's diet.

periodic table of food dyes

© KIND (used with permission)

Secondly, the health impact of these dyes is unknown. In 2011 the FDA said it found no evidence of hyperactivity being caused by synthetic dyes, but health officials in California have reopened the debate this month to explore more about the dyes' possible effect on neurological performance.

Finally, consumption of synthetic dyes messes with a child's perception of food. As KIND stated in a press release that was emailed to TreeHugger, the company is "concerned that American kids are now accustomed to eating foods that are artificially colorful and less likely to try and enjoy foods that are naturally colored." This is yet another reason why I don't like kid-marketed foods of any kind and believe that children should be taught to eat the same foods as adults from a young age, as every other animal does with its young.

While KIND continues with its anti-synthetic dye campaign, it's up to parents to avoid these fake-colored foods and to teach their kids to appreciate real colors and flavors. And what better time of year to start than now, when the tomatoes are cherry red, the plums are deep purple, and the corn is the color of sunshine?