Synthetic food additives found in school food
Below, in no particular order, are some of the studies that show what’s wrong with certain additives commonly found in school foods. Synthetic food dyes can be recognized in the US by the use of a color plus a number, such as Yellow 5. In other countries they are more often called by name. For example, Yellow 5 is tartrazine.


While those dyes used in food are also referred to as FD&C (Food, Drug & Cosmetic) colors, there are others used in toothpaste, cosmetics, and medicines called D&C (Drug & Cosmetic) colors. Examples are Yellow 10 and Red 22. FD&C and D&C food dyes are certified to have no more than the allowable amount of lead, mercury, arsenic, and other toxic chemicals.


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Synthetic food dyes & flavorings, including the flavor enhancer MSG

“Artificial food colours or a sodium benzoate preservative (or both) in the diet resulted inincreased hyperactivity in 3-year-old and 8/9-year-old children in the general population.” McCann 2007

There is sufficient scientific evidence of a true causal link between tartrazine (Yellow 5) andhyperactivity, anxiety and depression-like behavior. The authors warn of the hazardous impact of tartrazine on public health. Kamel 2011

Three food dyes and three synthetic flavorings were each fed to rats t the ADI level and in combinations of a dye plus a flavoring. All treated groups ate more than controls but lost weight. The had lower red blood cell counts and hemoglobin, as well as enzyme changes that indicatedliver and kidney damage. Abd El-Wahab 2012

When tested individually, various food additives were found to suppress the growth of nerve cells and interfere with signaling. When two additives were combined, the effects were multiplied. The combination of Blue 1 + MSG was 4 times as toxic and the combination of Yellow 5 + aspartame was 7 times as toxic. Lau 2006

Red 2 and Yellow 5 showed clear immuno-suppressive effects. Koutsogeorgopoulou 1998

Red 3 reduced serotonergic activity with modulation of central dopaminergic activity depending on the brain region. These neurochemicals are involved in hyperactivity. Dalal 2009

Yellow 5 and Carmoisine (not used in the US) each alter biochemical markers in the livers and kidneys at low doses. There is a dose-related effect. Amin 2010

In children with ADHD, Yellow 5 and Yellow 6 each significantly lowered zinc levels, causing one or more of the following symptoms: overactivity, aggression, violence, poor speech, poor coordination, asthma, eczema. Ward 1997 (Note: other dyes have never been tested.)

Red 2, Red 3, and Yellow 5 tested on human blood cells in vitro bind directly to DNA, causing its degradation, and indicating a toxic potential to human white blood cells (lymphocytes).Mpountoukas 2010

Food and Drug Administration 2003 letter to doctors: Doctors must stop using Blue 1 in enteral (tube feeding) solutions because it sometimes causes metabolic acidosis and death. This dye is a mitochondrial toxin, used for 30 years in tube feedings without any safety studies.

Mice and rats fed tartrazine (Yellow 5) were more active but took longer to escape a maze and had memory loss. Their brains showed oxidative damage. Gao 2011

Red 2 and Yellow 6 can harm liver function. When these additives were fed to pregnant rats, many of the pups were growth-retarded and/or had skeletal and organ abnormalities. Hashem 2011

Very low doses of three food dyes fed to mice caused DNA damage in the colon, lung, bladder, etc. Tsuda 2001

Tartrazine (Yellow 5) and Chocolate Brown (not used in the US) caused DNA liver and kidney damage. Hassan 2010

All food dyes tested inhibited mitochondrial respiration. (Mitochondria control the energy in your cells.) Reyes 1996

Low levels of each food dye tested on mice caused DNA damage in the stomach, colon, and bladder. Sasaki 2002

Artificial food colors may impair liver function. Ashida 2000

Rats fed sodium nitrite with Yellow 6 had a decrease in body weight and fewer red and white blood cells. A number of tests for glucose, thyroid, calcium, cholesterol, and enzymes were abnormal, leading to the conclusion that “even the permitted doses of colourants and food preservatives may be harmful.” Helal 2001

Mice fed Yellow 5 in their water have fewer sperm and more sperm abnormalities. Mehedi 2009

Upon exposure to sunlight, Yellow 6 in bottled drinks is degraded to benzene sulfonic acid sodium salt which caused liver damage and an increase in tumor markers in rats. Ibrahim 2008

Artificial food colors had “an adverse effect” on the Conners’ behavior rating of 19 children.Pollock 1990

Azo dyes caused colon-specific DNA damage in mice. Shimada 2010

The preservatives BHA, BHT, TBHQ

BHA is “reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen based on sufficient evidence of carcinogenicity from studies in experimental animals.” National Institutes of Health Report on Carcinogens 2011

Both BHA and BHT cause DNA damage in the stomach, colon and bladder. Sasaki 2002

When BHT was fed to pregnant mice and their offspring, the pups slept less, learned less, and were more aggressive. Stokes 1974

BHT is toxic to the lungs and causes liver tumors. Kahl 1993

Rats fed BHT had increased liver weight. Under an electron microscope, the liver cells showed holes and disintegration, a “moth-eaten” appearance, withered mitochondria and death. (Mitochondria control cell energy.) Safer 1999

Injected BHT causes lung damage in mice. Meyer 2006

Fish larvae fed a diet with BHA for 12 days had liver tumors 6 months later. Results were clearly dose-dependent and show that BHA is carcinogenic in fish even at the low 0.01% dose.Park 1990

BHA and BHT were shown to damage egg maturation in female rats. Takami 1999

BHT causes damage to the immune system. Tryphonas 1999

BHT promotes lung tumors. Umemura 2006

Corn syrup & HFCS (High Fructose Corn Syrup)

Samples of corn syrup were found to contain mercury at levels up to 0.57 micrograms mercury per gram of corn syrup. Dufault 2009

Rats given access to HFCS ate the same number of total calories as rats given access to sucrose, but they gained significantly more body weight – especially abdominal fat – and had elevated triglyceride levels. Bocarsly 2010

HFCS promotes the formation of toxic chemicals involved in aging, in diabetes complications, and in hardening of the arteries. Gaby 2005

HFCS turns into fat more easily and raises triglycerides and cholesterol more than ordinary sugar or other carbohydrates. It increases blood pressure, uric acid, and lactic acid. Hallfrisch 1990

Aspartame (Equal, NutraSweet)

Rats getting aspartame in their drinking water took longer to run a T-Maze, indicating an effect on memory. Christian 2004

When zebrafish were fed aspartame 30% died with “swimming defects” and inflamed brain and liver cells. Kim 2011

Food coloring + aspartame was found to be synergistic, i.e., far more toxic to developing nerve cells than expected by just adding up the effect of each additive given alone. Lau 2006

Results from several large population studies suggest regular consumption of artificial sweeteners like aspartame and sucralose (Splenda) may actually contribute to weight gain and diabetes rather than combat them as expected. Lowen 2011

Formaldehyde is a breakdown product as aspartame. In rat cells, 100 microM of it significantlyincreased the number of shrunken cells and cells with damaged DNA. Much higher concentrations have been measured in humans. Nakao 2003

Aspartame-induced disorders include headache, confusion, convulsions, irritability, deprssion, intellectual deterioration, antisocial behavior, rashes, asthma, and unstable diabetes, as well as actual addiction to aspartame-containing products. Roberts 2001

More research on ADHD and Autism link to diet

73% of 26 children with ADHD improved on an elimination diet. In a double-blind test with 100 mg dye and suspect foods, ALL reacted. “Dietary factors may play a significant role in the etiology of the majority of children with ADHD.” Boris 1994

75% of 78 hyperactive children improved on an open trial of an elimination diet. This was verified in a placebo-controlled double-blind challenge protocol. Carter 1993

Following 2,868 children from birth through 14 years old, the researchers determined that those on a “Western” diet were more likely to have an ADHD diagnosis. Howard 2010

80% of 45 children with epilepsy and physical or behavioral problems recovered or improved on a “few foods” diet. Headaches, abdominal pain, and hyperactivity stopped in all those whose seizures stopped, and in some whose seizures did not. Symptoms returned in 94% of children challenged with the foods and additives. Egger 1989

66% of children with ADHD were found to be deficient in zinc and 23% were deficient in copper, even though they we eating adequate amounts of both. Kiddie 2010

Yellow 5 caused loss of zinc with a corresponding deterioration in behavior and emotional responses in ADHD children but not in normal children. Ward 1990

In hyperactive children, Yellow 5 and 6 caused a reduction in zinc, resulting on one or more of these symptoms: overactivity, aggression, violence, poor speech, poor coordination, asthma, eczema. Compared to controls, these children were low in zinc and iron but high in aluminum, cadmium and lead. Ward 1997

A diet free of food additives and natural salicylates is beneficial for one in three patients withhives. Magerl 2010

Using the Feingold diet and a control diet on 15 hyperactive children, both parents and teachers reported improvement on the Feingold diet. Conners 1976

Intending to prove Dr. Feingold wrong, Dr. Brenner offered the diet to 32 families whose children had NOT improved on medication. On the diet 11 (34%) “were markedly improved…the startling changes seen in patients we had been followed for years with other forms of therapy suggest strongly that this improvement was genuine.” Brenner 1977

On a diet avoiding additives, 76% of 21 children whose migraines or hyperactive behavior improved also stopped bed wetting. Egger 1992

In 10 groups of rats, 3 food dyes and 3 synthetic flavorings were tested singly and in combinations. All treated groups ate more food than controls, but lost weight. They had reduced hemoglobin and red blood cell counts, and enzyme changes indicating liver and kidney damage.Abd El-Wahab 2012

A patient suffered severe blood vessel inflammation after eating 50 mg of Red 4. It faded after 2 months on a diet without food additives. Velien 1991

In people with atopic dermatitis and food intolerance, additives (food dyes, benzoates, nitrites, etc.) cause white blood cells to make more leukotriene, contributing to allergic reactions and asthma. Worm 2001

Yellow 5 induces bronchoconstriction similar to that caused by aspirin and other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs in some aspirin-sensitive people. Ceserani 1978

62 children who developed a rash after being given antibiotic were given the same antibiotic but without dyes at the next infection. Only 8 of them developed a skin rash, and it was mild.Huang 1998

Food supplement treatment of ADHD was of equal efficacy to Ritalin treatment. Harding 2003

The difference in ADHD ratings between the diet group and control group was significant. The author says an elimination diet “is a valuable instrument to assess whether ADHD is induced by food.” Pelsser 2011

Using EEGs to map the brain activity of children with ADHD, the researchers found that certain foods/additives affected the electrical activity in the brain. Uhlig 1997

DHA in fish oil controls aggression in young people under stress. Hamazak 2002

Yellow 5 was the most reactive additive tested in 40 patients with chronic hives. Jimenez-Aranda 1996

People with chronic degenerative neurological and immunological disease, including ADHD, autism. Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and rheumatoid arthritis may have impaired sulfation. He concludes “This may be a factor in the success of the Feingold Diet.” McFadden 1996

72% of 55 children on a 6-week trial of the Feingold Diet demonstrated improved behavior.Rowe 1988

75% of 200 children put on the Feingold Diet measurably improved. Rowe 1994

Following the previous study, 54 children were put on an additive-free diet and then challenged with 6 different doses of Yellow 5. 82% of 23 “suspected reactors” and even 10% of the 20 “control” children reacted. Length and severity of reactions were dose-dependent. Rowe 1994

“Red 40 produced physical and behavioral toxicity in developing rats.” Vorhees 1983

10 hyperactive preschool children were tested with two diets, not knowing which was the Feingold Diet. 100% of them improved on the Feingold Diet. Harley 1978

Yellow 5 was found to trigger purpura (bruise marks on the skin). Kalinke 1999

When given drinks with food additives, all the children showed changes in EEG and heart rate. Hyperactive children were more affected than normal children. Salamy 1982

In a meta-anaylsis of studies on artificial food dyes, the authors concluded the studies are consistent with evidence that “neurobehavioral toxicity may characterize a variety of widely distributed chemicals.” Schab 2004

93% of 15 children put on the Feingold Diet improved in overactivity, distractibility, impulsiveness and excitability. Sleep and bed-wetting problems were partly or completely resolved. Salzman 1976

Using 35.26 mg dye on children who were not hyperactive, he concluded: “Modest doses of the synthetic colors, and perhaps other agents excluded by elimination diets, can provoke disturbed behavior in children.” Weiss 1980

Improving the diet in 813 state jails resulted in “significantly improved conduct, intelligence, and/or academic performance...” Schoenthaler 1991

After a few days on an additive-free diet, 40 children were given 100-150 mg of mixed food dyes or placebo. The learning ability of the 20 hyperactive children (but not the normal controls) was worse after the food dyes. Swanson 1980