NYT: Colorless Jell-O and Cheetos?

Once in a while I get excited from a newspaper article. Not the curious excited, but the break-through excited, like there’s finally an inkling of hope for the population. Ok, I’m exaggerating a tad, but yesterday, when I read the front page article, Colorless Jell-O and Cheetos? F.D.A. Is Taking a Clear Look,  in the New York Times, I said to myself, “finally, some light is being shed on the atrocious diet of Americans.” Of course, many U.S. consumers don’t read the New York Times, and even if they did, they might not even read through the article, but at least it’s there in ink. And the front page of the NYT isn’t something to sneeze about.

For almost 70 years, the FDA has defended the safety of artificial food colorings, but for the first time publicly, the government agency is assessing “whether foods like Jell-O, Lucky Charms cereal and Minute Maid Lemonade should carry warnings that the bright artificial colorings in them worsen behavior problems like hyperactivity in some children.” Don’t be fooled into thinking that there’s some guardian angel of a company looking out for your family’s best nutritional needs and safety, just because a product is on a store’s shelves. Rather, the opposite is true. Unfortunately, those devilish companies use every known (and many unknown!) marketing tactics in the book to get you and your children to buy their products. And, boy, does it work. Add some neon food coloring, a couple of pounds of sugar, and a cheap plastic toy, and you’ve got the ultimate bait for luring young, unsuspecting children into your economic grasps. When given the option between a box of artificially flavored and colored box of chocolate cereal, with cartoon characters littering the box, and a bowl of steel-cut oatmeal, you can probably guess what a kid would pick. And, honestly, it’s not the fault of the children. Even many parents are totally clueless about the harms of eating these types of processed foods. Parents these days don’t have a lot of extra time to cook, so it’s much easier to come home from an exhausting day’s work, open a blue box of mac n’ cheese, and put it on the table. But if parents truly knew what they were serving their children, they might think twice.

The NYT article goes on to read, that in the 1970’s, “….Dr. Benjamin Feingold, a pediatric allergist from California, had success treating the symptoms of hyperactivity in some children by prescribing a diet that, among other things, eliminated artificial colorings. And some studies, including one published in The Lancet medical journal in 2007, have found that artificial colorings might lead to behavioral changes even in typical children.”

Recently, I watched an extremely informative video on YouTube, in which a former Wall Street food industry analyst addressed the link between genetically modified foods and the rise in food allergies. It’s definitely worth the 15 minutes it takes to watch:

The consumer science group responsible for the FDA’s re-evaluation of artificial food coloring’s safety, is asking for the ban of dyes, or at the very least, requiring manufacturers to include prominently placed warnings on their products. Finally after numerous citizen petitions, the FDA is taking notice. It may seem like a small step, but add those steps together and it’s possible to travel for miles. We do have a long way to go in our fight to know where our food comes from, and what exactly is going in to it. But if we keep taking baby steps, we’ll reach the end. Knowledge is power, so go out there, learn about the food you’re consuming, and of course, share your knowledge with others!

Click here to read an online version of the article described above.


So, disappointing news — the FDA panel reviewing the evidence of the harm being caused by artificial dyes in our food has decided to NOT require a warning on product labeling, citing that more research needs to be done.  This is despite the fact that “The FDA has said it agrees with studies that say for ‘certain susceptible children,’ hyperactivity and other behavioral problems may be exacerbated by food dyes and other substances in food” (http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/42362742/ns/health-diet_and_nutrition/).  Again, we’re going into an innocent-until-proven-guilty mode for these manufacturers that sell dye-laden products in the U.S. while they sell the same products without the dyes overseas.  It makes me wonder…do the executives at these companies feed any of their neon-colored foods to their own children?!?!?  My guess is ‘NO’.  With their hefty salaries, they no doubt can afford to provide their families with healthy, Organic options on the table rather than what most Americans can only afford, which is lower-quality, artificially-flavored, and artificially-colored fare.

Below are a couple of commentaries that I found to be interesting.  We’ll continue to follow this issue, so sign up to receive updates from us if you don’t want to miss anything!



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  1. shelley

     /  April 3, 2011

    Article in today’s Times about how important color is to our perception of flavor in food. I didn’t get a chance to read it, but it could be an interesting complement to this thread!

  2. There was an interesting follow-up article on artificial food coloring in the NYT, “Colorless Food? We Blanch,” discussing how intertwined our perceptions of taste are with our sense of sight. Consumers given a pudding dyed yellow often described the flavor as lemon when no lemon flavoring was actually present. And when given an un-dyed, lemon-flavored product, consumers claimed it tasted like vanilla. The bottom line is that food companies add artificial colorings to food for no other reason than to sell them. If you’d like to read the article in its entirety click here:


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