Food Dyes & Risk

The Centre for Science in the Public Interest has just released a report on the dangers of food dyes. Here’s the press release CSPI Says Food Dyes Pose Rainbow of Risks (and here’s a direct link to the PDF version of the report, Food Dyes: A Rainbow of Risk).

I’ll just make two quick points, here. One is that (though I haven’t read the report thoroughly yet) there doesn’t seem to be much that’s new, here. It’s worth noting that in eight and a half pages of citations, only 5 studies are from the last decade. Not that that entirely undercuts the significance of this report. But it’s not like there are going to be stunning new bits of science revealed here.

The second point is that food dyes are pretty clearly among the low-lying fruit, so to speak, if you’re looking for food additives to reduce or eliminate from your diet or from your products. As the SCPI press release rightly points out, dyes “do absolutely nothing to improve the nutritional quality or safety of foods”. Nor, I should add, do they do anything (directly) to improve the taste, though it’s pretty likely that they do improve consumer experience (including very likely affecting flavour indirectly). We can’t expect 100% certainty about the safety of every ingredient of every food product. But it seems reasonable to keep to a minimum any additive that is subject to any reasonable scientific suspicion and that is of dubious value in improving food quality.

About Chris MacDonald

I'm a philosopher who teaches at Ryerson University's Ted Rogers School of Management in Toronto, Canada. Most of my scholarly research is on business ethics and healthcare ethics.
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