43% of Foods Marketed for Children Contain Artificial Dyes

Wednesday, June 15, 2016
Credit: Steve Straehley/AllGov

In an effort to appeal to picky young palates, food processors often make their products more tempting by putting color in the food. A recent study (pdf) has shown, though, that 43% of foods marketed to children contain artificial food colors (AFCs).

According to researchers Ameena Batada of the University of North Carolina Asheville and Michael F. Jacobson of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, the food most likely to contain artificial dyes is—no surprise—candy, with 96.3% of the brands sampled containing artificial dyes. Next on the list were fruit-flavored snacks (94.7%); drink mixes and powders (89.7%); and frozen breakfasts (85.7%).

At the other end of the scale were produce (0%); cheese, yogurt and milk products (12%); ice cream and cones (16%); and packaged pasta and soups (19%).

“AFCs lack nutritional value or other health benefit, and they are often used (together with artificial or natural flavorings) in place of healthful ingredients, for example, red and yellow AFCs for carrots and orange juice,” the researchers pointed out.

Researchers surveyed grocery stores and found 810 products that were marketed to children. Other foods that aren’t specifically marketed to children, such as soda pop, were not included in the survey.

Kraft Foods was the leader in using AFCs, with 105 of that company’s line using the dyes, amounting to 65.7% of their products. Kellogg was next at 69 products, followed by General Mills with 67.

The most popular AFC used by food processors was Red 40, followed by Blue 1 and Yellow 5.

Artificial colors aren’t the only way to make food more attractive to children. Processors have such natural dyes as beet juice and annatto. Kraft recently trumpeted that they would begin using paprika, annatto and turmeric to color its iconic macaroni and cheese dinner.

-Steve Straehley


To Learn More:

Prevalence of Artificial Food Colors in Grocery Store Products Marketed to Children (pdf) (by Ameena Batada and Michael F. Jacobson, Clinical Pediatrics)

There’s a Bug in Your Yogurt (AllGov)

Chemicals that are Banned in Europe, but Widespread in U.S. (by Steve Straehley, AllGov)

FDA Inches Closer to Defining “Natural Foods” (by Steve Straehley, AllGov)


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