Many studies have looked at the potential impacts of food dyes on a person's health, especially behavior in children. Now, new research shows us just how much of it is in some popular foods.

More: Read the study for yourself

According to the group Center for Science in the Public Interest, new research by Purdue University scientists, published in the journal Clinical Pediatrics, reports on the dye content of scores of breakfast cereals, candies, baked goods, and other foods. Those amounts have been a secret up until now.

"Until now, how much of these neurotoxic chemicals are used in specific foods was a well-kept secret," said CSPI executive director Michael F. Jacobson. "I suspect that food manufacturers themselves don't even know. But now it is clear that many children are consuming far more dyes than the amounts shown to cause behavioral problems in some children. The cumulative impact of so much dyed foods in children's diets, from breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks, is a partial reason why behavioral problems have become more common.

The CSPI calls the findings "disturbing since the amounts of dyes found in even single servings of numerous foods—or combinations of several dyed foods—are higher than the levels demonstrated in some clinical trials to impair some children's behavior."

CSPI facts from the study:

  • General Mills' Trix cereal lists Yellow 6, Blue 1, and Red 40 on its ingredients list. But until now, no one would knew have known that Trix had 36.4 milligrams of those chemicals.
  • Fruity Cheerios had 31 mg of food dyes, also some combination of Red 40, Yellow 6, and Blue 1.
  • Of all the cereals tested, the one with the most artificial dyes was Cap'n Crunch's Oops! All Berries, with 41 mg.
  • Target Mini Green Cupcakes, which have Yellow 5, Blue 1, Yellow 6, and Red 40, had 55.3 mg of artificial dyes per serving, the highest level found in any food. Red 40, Yellow 5, and Yellow 6 are the three most widely used dyes in the United States.
  • Skittles and M&M's, which are dyed with Blue 1, Blue 2, Yellow 5, Yellow 6, and Red 40, had the highest levels found in candies. Skittles Original had 33.3 mg per serving; M&M's Milk Chocolate had 29.5 mg per serving. Both candies are made by Mars, Inc.
  • Kraft Macaroni & Cheese was found to have 17.6 mg of artificial dyes per serving.
  • Keebler Cheese & Peanut Butter Crackers had 14.4 mg of artificial dyes.
  • Kraft's Creamy French salad dressing had 5 mg.
  • The Purdue researchers noted that one of the largest sources of artificial dyes in the American diet is beverages. They found high levels of dyes in 8-ounce servings of some, including 18.8 mg in Full Throttle Red Berry energy drink, 22.1 mg in Powerade Orange Sports Drink, 33.6 mg in Crush Orange, 41.5 mg in Sunny D Orange Strawberry, and 52.3 mg per serving in Kool-Aid Burst Cherry.

Some clinical trials have shown that some children are affected d by doses up to 35 mg of mixtures of synthetic coloring, with larger percentages generally being affected by doses of 100 mg or more.

Read more at the CSPI website.

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