Thursday, February 5, 2009

The American Response to The McCann Study

(Third of four parts)
In June 2008, the Center for Science in the Public Interest petitioned the FDA to ban several petroleum-based artificial colorings in an attempt to align American policy with British guidelines.

The FDA has not taken any action on the petition, and American M&M’s continue to be colored with Blue 1, Blue 2, Yellow 5, Yellow 6 and Red 40. British M&M’s, on the other hand, use natural colorants (i.e. carotenes) and synthetic dyes not deemed dangerous.

Curious about the discrepancy, I called Mars, the maker of M&M’s. After five minutes of obfuscation, Colleen (the Customer Care Representative) finally read me the following statement:

"[Britain] seems to have a much higher concern about food colors than do other countries around the world. In each country in which we make and sell our products, safety and quality are our primary concerns. We meet or exceed safety and quality guidelines in each country in which we sell our products and the guidelines can vary around the world as can consumer interest and reaction.

"Mars U.S. closely monitors new research and relies on the FDA for guidance on the use of food colors and other ingredients. We also put a toll free number on every package that we sell. This, along with consumer research, allows us to stay close to the consumer and understand their needs and wants. Colors are labeled on all of our products so that consumers can make an informed decision.

"At this time, we have no plans to change our recipes in the U.S."
The bottom line is the bottom line. Artificial colors are cheaper to use than natural ones, and until the food companies feel political pressure to change—as was the case in Britain—they won’t budge an inch.

Instead, they’ll resort—as Mars did—to hollow statements about how some people are allergic to natural colors and that real colors are not as widely available as artificial ones.

Don’t believe their hype, take your health into your own hands and opt for products without the petroleum-based synthetic dyes. You and your family will be better for it.

(Tomorrow: An American doctor’s view on food colorings)


thedanop said...

Amazing! And unbelievable at the same time. I can't get over how evasive the Mars folks were when you called. At least I can feel slightly less guilty eating my British M&M's here in snowy London... :)

Cousin Patti said...

We try to eat candy in moderation but what about our delicious Florida oranges?..."Realize that some food dyes that are considered 'certifiable colors' by the FDA are limited to highly specific uses. For example, Citrus Red Number 2 is only found in some Florida oranges, and then only in the peel. This dye may pose a slight cancer risk, but it does not penetrate the fruit itself. Wash and peel the orange before eating it. "

Karyn Zoldan said...

Does anything the FDA does or does not do surprise you?

Hopefully, Obama's overhaul of the FDA can make it more accountable to operate without being in the pocket of big pharma and powerful corporations like Mars.

Keep up the good work.