These Are Not Food, They’re Pretty Poisons

“Look what we’re having for snack?!” my son’s first grade friend said excitedly. He held up the box of faux fruit gummy snacks that his parents (one of whom is a doctor) brought to share with the class.

My son was delighted. I was disgusted.

The first ingredient: high fructose corn syrup.

The second ingredient: sugar.

Among the other ingredients: Artificial flavors, Red dye #40, and Yellow Dye #5.

In what way could this product possibly be construed as food?

No one would ever consider putting diesel fuel in a car that runs on unleaded gas. Yet we treat our children’s bodies with less respect than our cars, loading them up with substances that are barely edible (these artificial dyes come in large plastic canisters and look exactly like paint; they are actually made from petroleum products), and that have been shown to cause cancer in industry-sponsored studies on animals and hyperactivity in some children.

I grew up eating Froot Loops, delighting in the brightly colored syrupy milk left in the bottom of the bowl.

To this day I don’t understand why my parents bought that kind of processed junk food laden with toxins and fed it to my brother and me day after day.

The FDA is now considering whether this kind of crap that is passed off as food should carry warning labels. (Read more about this in this New York Times article. There’s also this excellent article by Christina Le Beau, “Food-dye news every skeptic should read.”)

Yes! Yes! Food with artificial dyes in it should contain warning labels.

But we should go one step further: these artificial petroleum-based dyes need to be taken out of American food.

They are nothing more than pretty poisons, used to color up faux processed food that our kids should not be eating.

To get rid of them permanently would be surprisingly easy, since many companies have already done so for European consumers. According to this detailed report, “Food Dyes: A Rainbow of Risks” published by the Center for Science in the Public Interest, many multi-national corporations do not use these toxic dyes in Europe but still use them in America:

“CSPI has urged several major multinational companies that do not use dyes in Europe to do the same in the United States. Unfortunately, most of those companies said that they don’t use dyes in Europe because government has urged them not to—but that they would continue to use dyes in the United States until they were ordered not to or consumers demanded such foods.”

All parents care deeply about their children and their children’s health. We all want what’s best for our kids. Is it ignorance or laziness or a desire to please or a feeling of wanting to be part of what everyone else is doing or a belief in advertising? What is it that leads parents to buy gummy sharks for the school snack?


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