Do food dyes make kids hyper?

(NBC) - Like a lot of kids his age, Michael Tribble enjoyed candy, orange crackers, sweet yogurt and pudding, but his mother noticed that after he ate these brightly colored foods his behavior would change.

"Michael would get easily frustrated. He would cry. He would get horrible headaches. He would throw up," Beth Tribble explained. "I think a lot of the behavioral issues that parents are seeing is a direct result of the additives."

Specifically she's talking about artificial food dye, used in thousands of foods.

"It's not that the food dyes are the underlying cause of ADHD or hyperactivity, but if a kid is predisposed to it then the dyes can trigger outbursts and behavioral outbursts," said Michael Jacobson, Executive Director of the Center For Science In The Public Interest.

Jacobson says research dating back to 1980 has linked food dyes with behavioral problems in children.

"Some children, certainly not all children, react sharply. They lose control over their impulses. Physically, they jump around, they might yell, scream out."

A 2007 study by the UK's Food Standards Agency, the British equivalent of the Food and Drug Administration, found that 8 and 9 year olds who drank beverages with food dyes were more likely to become hyperactive. Those findings prompted the agency to ask food manufacturers to get rid of six artificial colors in British foods by the end of 2009.

Jacobson says most companies have complied, but they haven't made changes to their US products.

"The foods would automatically be safer for kids and that really should be the bottom line," Jacobson says.

The FDA maintains that there isn't enough data to conclusively link these dyes with hyperactivity in children. A statement on the agency's web site says they reviewed the British study and found it does "not substantiate a link between color additives that were tested and behavioral effects."

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