Time to Make the Doughnuts Free of Toxic Food Dyes, Dunkin' Decides

Despite best efforts to stem the tide, the producers of processed foods and chemical ingredients are being swept away by consumer demands for more natural and safer products. The most recent defeat took the form of an announcement by Dunkin Donuts. By the end of 2018, the company says that all artificial dyes will be removed from their donuts. Discounting for a moment the question of why Dunkin Donuts was using these dyes in the first place, and the extremely unhealthy nutritional profile of a donut, this is still an important victory. 

CNN reported that this move to use cleaner ingredients will cover their entire product line from donuts to frozen beverages. They are following the lead of companies like the Swiss junk food giant Nestle, who decided to remove artificial coloring for their candy bars in 2015, which was a response to consumers who may not be willing to swear off sugary treats entirely but no longer want unpronounceable adulterants in their food. 

The use of toxic dyes in food has been a major concern for decades. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) permits nine different colors to be added to foods, and the agency certifies each batch for "purity and safety." Alarmingly, the amount of dye certified has risen from 12 mg per capita, per day, in 1950 to 62 mg/capita/day in 2010. It's clear that Americans are consuming more artificial colors, but how much is in your food and could artificial colors be responsible for a sharp increase in childhood behavioral issues?

In 2007, a carefully designed, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study published in the journal The Lancet concluded that a variety of common food dyes and the preservative sodium benzoate cause some children to become measurably more hyperactive and distractible. This wasn't the first time such a link had been established. In 1994, researchers found that 73 percent of children with ADHD responded favorably to an elimination diet that included removing artificial colors.
The amount of dye that can end up in a child’s diet is alarming and not accidental. Children are a natural target of the junk food giants and susceptible to their sophisticated marketing strategies.  The use of bright colors is a time tested method of grabbing their attention.  It is also unconscionable because they are biologically more vulnerable to the very dyes that are used to make the sale. 

The good news is that the pendulum appears to be swinging the other direction and parents are rejecting chemical concoctions, and the manufacturers are responding by removing these ingredients. Kraft has removed artificial colors from several of their decidedly unhealthy macaroni and cheese varieties, and Pepperidge Farm also bent to the will of the consumer when they cleaned artificial colors out of their Goldfish Crackers. 

Of course it takes more than removing artificial colors from an item to make it a healthy option. When foods are processed, not only are they stripped of vital nutrients and fibers removed, but the textures and natural flavor profiles are also lost. What's left behind is a bland, uninteresting "pseudo-food" that most people wouldn't want to eat. This is why food manufacturers fortify their products with isolated nutrients, artificial flavors, chemical colors and contrived textures.  While it is good news that artificial colors are on the way out, these other additives should also be avoided. 

If you must purchase processed food, organic varieties are free of artificial colors. But if you want to eat (and be) healthy, I suggest you follow the pre-1950s model and spend quality time in the kitchen preparing nourishing meals for yourself and your family. 

Removing all processed foods may appear to be a daunting task, but this is the best way to remove both sugar and toxic ingredients from your diet. The convenience and perceived value of processed food is entirely illusory. With planning, preparing your own meals is a lifestyle change that can reap massive dividends. For a step-by-step guide to make healthy and wholesome food the cornerstone of your diet, simply follow the advice in my nutrition plan along with these seven steps to wean yourself off processed foods.
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