The Link Between Food Dyes and Hyperactivity in Children
The media is all a flutter with the news of a nation-wide Kraft Boycott after the company refused to respond to a petition of over 270,000 consumers demanding they reformulate their Mac n’ Cheese recipe. I could write a thesis on all the harmful ingredients in Kraft products (umm….that would be every. single. one.) but this boycott is really about demanding that Kraft remove the artificial colorings and dyes that make the mac n’ cheese its signature yellow color.
We have compelling evidence showing us that artificial colorings and dyes can lead to hyperactivity in some children and as such, the EU regulated that companies put a warning on any of their products using these additives. Because of those regulations, companies like Kraft have reformulated their recipes for the EU because they don’t want to have to put a scary label like that on their products. But here in the US, it’s business as usual as they continue to opt for cheaper synthetic ingredients rather than switch to the natural alternatives they’re using in Europe. But to be fair, as the Parent Advocacy group Healthy Child explains, Kraft isn’t the only company doing this. Most, if not all, Big Food companies are taking part in this double-standard and Food Babe has a great side-by-side comparison of other companies who use questionable ingredients in their American products that are banned in other countries.
Although some research into food colorings linked to hyperactivity has been inconclusive, I can see this play out easily in my own family as Jack is highly affected by artificial colorings and dyes. Give him a red lollipop and wait for the fireworks. I’ve never wanted to lock my child in a closet more than when he comes home from a friend’s house after eating Fruit By The Foot (Yellow 5, Blue 40, Red 1) and a Nutri Grain Bar (Red 40, Blue 1). As soon as I remove synthetic ingredients from Jack’s diet, he is a completely different child. Being a kinetic learner, he will always be active and energetic but without the dyes, he loses the impulsive and spastic behaviour He has an easier time self-soothing and dealing with frustration and returns to his usual happy-go-lucky attitude with an extra dose of empathy for those around him. A completely different scene than the child bouncing off the walls after getting high on Fruit Loops (Red 40, Blue 2, Yellow 6, Blue 1) and Doritos (Yellow 6, Yellow 5, Red 40).
Thankfully, I understand why he’s being impulsive, disobedient and foolish but sadly, most parents don’t see the connection. They give their kid nothing but processed and artificially flavoured “food” and then punish them for being unruly! They create their own monster and then reprimand them for not behaving.
But Will My Kid Eat It?
The instigators of the Kraft boycott, Vani Hari (aka Food Babe) and Lisa Leake (from 100 Days of Real Food), have gone to great lengths to show consumers that the Kraft Mac n’ Cheese tastes the same in Europe as it does here so there really is no excuse for not reformulating our American versions. Until Kraft stands up for what’s right, I urge all of you to boycott their entire line of products.
Better yet, how about boycotting that processed crap simply because it’s killing you and not just because it might make your kids hyper?
It’s obvious that I’m not fond of processed foods — be it Kraft Mac n’ Cheese or any other food-like substances that most of America survives on (and I use the term “survive” in the most literal sense). But I will also say that we have the responsibility as parents to feed our children REAL food. Although I do believe companies should own up to the fact that they are using harmful ingredients when other natural ones are available, no parent should leave their kid’s health in someone else’s hands. It would be foolish to think that we can trust Big Food companies, the government (following the shoddy food pyramid is like asking for cancer), or the school system to teach our kids how to eat well. Not even my doctor is solely responsible for my kids’ health and nutrition. I AM.
It is up to me to scan the ingredients label of everything my kids eat. It is up to me to not feed my kids garbage like Kraft Mac n’ Cheese. It’s up to me to educate my children on why we don’t eat processed frankenfoods that are created in science labs instead of kitchens.
I understand that it can be overwhelming to keep track of all the latest research, Google every ingredient, or translate a nutrition label, so I will make this very simple:
If it has more than 6 ingredients, it’s probably not real food.
In a perfect world, we wouldn’t be eating anything with a label and we’d be making all our food from scratch. But until the zombie apocalypse makes that a reality, I urge you to at least avoid harmful artificial colorings and dyes in your child’s diet. Who knows, they could find themselves calmer and you could find yourself with a child that’s actually quite pleasant to be around!