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Banned in the U.K., food dyes are U.S. staple

Leave it to the Brits to trump us, again.

Last year, the British banned the unreadable and confusing fine print in legal documents that we in the United States cling to like a comfy blanket.

Now it's artificial food dyes that for the past three decades researchers in the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia have linked to behavioral problems and hyperactivity in children. (Lord only knows what it's doing to adults.)

Anyway, the U.K. has banned the fake dyes and is demanding food makers use natural coloring. But here in the United States, the same manufacturers are allowed to continue selling us Yellow 5 and 6, Red 3 and 40, Blue 1 and 2, Green 3 and Orange B.

"The fact that the British government, not some fly-by-night consumer group, said get rid of it, that emboldened us," said Michael Jacobson, director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest in Washington, D.C., which waved the warning flag about the dyes this month and called on the federal government to make changes.

Jacobson said U.S. companies use natural products in the U.K., while continuing to use the fake ones in the U.S. "That kind of double standard is shameful."

Just consider:

• Aunt Jemima Blueberry Waffles contain no blueberries. The blue bits are Red 40 and Blue 2.

• McDonald's strawberry sauce. Call it McRed 40 sauce. (The U.K. gets real strawberries.)

• Kraft's Guacamole Dip doesn't get its greenish color from avocados (because, we're told, there are hardly any in it). A better name: Old Yella 5, 6 and Blue 1 Dip.

And then there's Mars' Skittles and M&Ms, Kellogg's Froot Loops and Apple Jacks, General Mills' Fruit Rollups and Lucky Charms — just to name a few.

McDonald's and Kraft say they use only common, safe and approved ingredients.

"We realize there are some consumers who prefer products made without artificial ingredients, so we're providing them with brands such as Back to Nature," Kraft spokeswoman Susan Davison said in an e-mail. "Consumers who wish to avoid certain ingredients, including food colors, can do so by checking the labels."

Ivan Penn can be reached at ipenn@sptimes.com or (727) 892-2332.

Banned in the U.K., food dyes are U.S. staple 06/20/08 [Last modified: Friday, June 20, 2008 10:39pm]
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