American mom wants European M&Ms

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NEW YORK -- What gives M&Ms their bright colors? That depends on which country you're in.

Mars Inc. primarily uses artificial food coloring for the candy in the United States, but M&Ms derive their candy coloring from natural sources in Europe.

Now a petition begun by Renee Shutters and the Center for Science in the Public Interest is calling on Mars to stop using artificial dyes in its American M&Ms as well. As of Tuesday morning, the petition had more than 142,000 supporters.

Shutters says her son Trenton showed noticeable improvements in mood and attention span after she removed artificial coloring from his diet a few year ago. M&Ms were his favorite candy.

"I just could not believe that something so small could make that big of a difference," Shutters says.

European lawmakers moved to require warning labels on foods containing certain artificial colorings after a 2007 study found a slight increase in hyperactivity among children consuming a mixture of the dyes and a preservative.

The required label reads: "May have an adverse effect on activity and attention in children."

The move came despite the European Food Safety Authority's conclusion that the UK study "provides limited evidence" and "cannot be used as a basis for altering the (accepted daily intake) of the respective food (colors)."

Instead of adding the warning, most manufacturers voluntarily switched to dyes derived from natural sources, such as beets or annatto for red, carrots for orange and saffron for yellow.

In the United States, the Food and Drug Administration has declined to implement tougher regulations but acknowledged that "certain susceptible children with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder and other problem behaviors" may have their condition "exacerbated by exposure to a number of substances in food, including, but not limited to, synthetic color additives."

The effects on behavior "appear to be due to a unique intolerance to these substances and not to any inherent neurotoxic properties," the FDA said in 2011.

Michael Jacobson, executive director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, says the FDA and big business need to take action.

"The Food and Drug Administration should protect the public's health by banning food dyes," Jacobson says. "Companies of course could remove dyes voluntarily, switching to safer natural colorings, and a few big companies are beginning to do it."

In November, Kraft announced it would be removing artificial dyes from some varieties of its Macaroni & Cheese.

"We have absolute confidence in the safety of all the ingredients we use," Mars said in a statement. "(We) are constantly evaluating and updating ingredients based on consumer preference, new technology, scientific information and availability of raw materials."

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  • The TRUTH

    WOW. Let’s take ALL the FUN out of food. What is wrong with all you people? A closed mouth is better than one that spits out C R A P all day long. Enough with the excuses trying to cover up other problems.

  • Jeremy Leonard

    wow truth, way to not read the story it says that in other countries they manage to keep them the same color but without the chemical dyes, it’s just that the FDA is about 10 years behind Europe in food safety standards, other examples of this are Gatorade, the aforementioned mac and cheese etc…

  • Rob

    Bogus… If you eat enough m&ms to worry about the food coloring you a lot bigger issues to worry about. Also for Jeremy you could always move to one of your more advanced countries. I will keep freedom of choice. I would rather make my decisions everyday then to allow the government decide for me. Of course you probably assume you know how I should live and what I should do better than I know. If you do not want artificial flavoring a color etc. then do not eat it!!! But why should your choice take away mine

  • Crazy Cat Lady

    So….does she REALLY want the dyes removed because she is looking out for the health of the country, or because she knows, if they’re gone, she won’t have to closely monitor what her son eats?

    BTW Jeremy, there are much healthier choices RIGHT NOW than M&M’s, Gatorade, or boxed mac and cheese!

  • Jeremy Leonard

    Of course there are healthier choices than M&M’s candy or candy in general, my kids don’t eat any of this garbage, but the fact that they don’t have to put petroleum based poison in the food but they choose to is BS. You’ve got the right to poison yourself with whatever junk food you want your right and that’s great, but you should also have the right to make an informed decision on what you consume without them intentionally trying to deceive you on what’s actually in it, or is that just crazy.

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