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At the direction of the California Legislature, the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) is conducting a risk assessment of the potential adverse health impacts of synthetic food dyes on children, with a focus on neurobehavioral and other neurologic effects.  To support that investigation, OEHHA recently extended until February 19th a data call-in for information relating to possible exposures to and the toxicity of nine specific food dyes:

  • FD&C Blue No. 1 (CAS 3844-45-9)
  • FD&C Blue No. 2 (CAS 860-22-0)
  • FD&C Green No. 3 (CAS 2353-45-9)
  • Orange B (CAS 53060-70-1)
  • Citrus Red No. 2 (CAS 6358-53-8)*
  • Citrus Red No. 3 (CAS 16423-68-0)
  • FD&C Red No. 40 (CAS 25956-17-6)
  • FD&C Yellow #5 (CAS 1934-21-0)
  • FD&C Yellow #6 (CAS 2783-94-0)

(Citrus Red No. 2 currently is listed under Proposition 65 as a chemical known to the state to cause cancer.)

OEHHA is planning a symposium on the neurological and neurobehavioral impacts of synthetic food dyes in Summer/Fall 2019.  The risk assessment process will include a public review period and scientific peer review.

The 2018-2019 California state budget passed by the Legislature earlier this year included funding for OEHHA to review the scientific literature on the health effects of children’s exposure to synthetic food dyes and prepare a summary report by July 1, 2019.  The results will help inform potential legislation addressing food dyes, including possible reintroduction of an earlier bill (S.B. 504 introduced in 2017) that would have required (for the first time in the U.S. at the federal or state level) warning labels on all foods containing synthetic food dyes, including food served at restaurants.

The preamble to S.B. 504 included several notable (and alarming) declarations:

Synthetic food dyes trigger hyperactivity and other behavioral problems in some children with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) or other behavioral disorders, and may also trigger these behaviors in other children without those disorders.

The removal of food dyes from the diet reduces symptoms in affected children.

Foods containing synthetic food dyes are heavily marketed to children.

Further information on the OEHHA data call-in can be found at this link.