Can Easter Candy Make Kids See Red?
Avoid Tantrums Triggered by Food Dyes This Easter
Every spring you buy an abundance of delicious treats and lovingly prepare your children’s Easter baskets. So, why do they sometimes repay your hard work by screaming, crying or wrestling with each other most of the day?
It is probably not your children who are to blame, but rather the colorful candies in those Easter baskets, according to Jane Hersey, National Director of the nonprofit Feingold Association (www.feingold.org), a charity that helps children with learning and behavior problems.
“Research has shown that the synthetic food dyes used to make candies so attractive to children are not nearly as innocent as they look,” said Hersey, who is the author of Why Can’t My Child Behave?
A study by two Australian scientists, published in the Journal of Pediatrics, found that 75% of children showed improved behavior when fed a diet free of synthetic food dyes and that when one of the dyes (Yellow 5) was reintroduced, the younger children had “constant crying, tantrums, irritability, restlessness and severe sleep disturbance.” Earlier research by the lead author also found that over 70% of children put on a 6-week trial of the low-additive Feingold Diet demonstrated improved behavior.
“It is not surprising that these dyes can have such negative effects, since they are made from petroleum,” said Hersey, whose own daughter’s behavior was helped by removing the additives. “Petroleum may be good for your car, but it’s certainly not healthy to feed it to your kids!”
The development of synthetic food colorings derived from coal tar in the 19th century, and later from petroleum, was once considered an improvement, but public pressure is growing to ban these dyes because of their association with hyperactivity and attention problems, as well as cancer.
In the meantime, try taking the focus off of sweets:
- Hit the Trail. Walk with your kids on a nature trail at a state or local park to teach them about the rebirth of life in the springtime. Enjoy the newly blooming flowers and plants, as well as any rabbits, chipmunks or other animals that stray along your path.
- Sing a Song. Lead your children in a rousing chorus of “Here Comes Peter Cottontail.” (You can find the lyrics in songbooks or on the Internet.)
- Tell a Tale. Read your kids a chapter from the Tales of Peter Rabbit or one of the other books in this classic series by Beatrix Potter.
- Hop Like a Bunny. Give your children rabbit ear headbands (available at many stores) and fluffy tails made of cotton, so that they can dress up like bunnies. Then hold a race to see who can hop the fastest.
- Hunt Easter Eggs. Let the kids burn off excess energy (and calories) in a traditional Easter egg hunt.
“If you put natural candies in your children’s Easter baskets and plan activities such as these, you won’t have to dread the chaos that the Easter Bunny can sometimes bring,” said Hersey.
The Feingold Association
The nonprofit Feingold Association (www.feingold.org / 800-321-3287) helps families use the Feingold Diet, which eliminates synthetic food dyes, artificial flavorings, and certain preservatives.
Jane Hersey is National Director of the Feingold Association and author of Why Can’t My Child Behave. She frequently lectures at education associations, hospitals, medical groups, universities, and schools.
Rowe KS and Rowe KJ. Synthetic food coloring and behavior: a dose response effect in a double-blind, placebo-controlled, repeated-measures study. Journal of Pediatrics. 125(5 Pt 1):691-8, November 1994.
Rowe KS. Synthetic food colourings and “hyperactivity”: a double-blind crossover study. Australia Paediatric Journal. 24(2):143-7, April 1988.
McCann D, Barrett A, Cooper A, et al. Food additives and hyperactive behaviourin 3-year-old and 8/9-year-old children in the community: a randomised, double-blinded, placebo-controlled trial. Lancet. 370(9598):1560-7, November 2007.
“Modernising the rules on food additives and labelling of azo dyes,” European Parliament, July 8, 2008.
“F.D.A. Panel to Consider Warnings for Artificial Food Colorings,” New York Times, March 29, 2011.
Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for educational purposes only and its author is not engaged in providing medical or psychological services or advice to individuals. This information should not be used to replace competent in-person medical, health or psychological consultation, examination, diagnosis, or treatment and no person should delay in seeking medical, health or psychological treatment in reliance on it. Although care has been taken to ensure the accuracy of this information, Guzo Communications, LLC is not responsible for its validity or the consequence of its use.
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