The potential link between color additives and behavioral problems in children will be examined during a public meeting to be held March 30-31 by the US Food and Drug Administration’s Food Advisory Committee.

Although first postulated in the 1970s, such claims have long been considered unsubstantiated because a sizeable body of scientific research could not document them. But a 2007 study done at the University of Southampton in the UK tested two mixtures of artificial colors, plus a preservative, in beverages given to children and found “limited evidence that the mixtures of additives tested had a small effect on the activity and attention of some children.”

The study did not determine the contributions of individual additives to behavior, but still, public outcry in the UK and EU prompted food manufacturers to reduce or eliminate all such colors from children’s foods. The removal, at first voluntary, became de facto mandatory when the EU required warning labels for the presence of six such food colors, starting in August 2010.

In the US, the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a consumer watchdog group, picked up the issue and asked FDA to ban synthetic food dyes and to require warning labels on products until the colors are removed.

While the March meeting does not concern the synthetic or artificial nature of such color additives, it may have consequences for usage of these materials in food products.

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