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I got an email today from the class mom. Here it is in an edited form:

We will be having a small St. Patrick’s Day celebration in class during snack time on [date omitted]. We will be providing green bagels for this event and the teacher will be bringing in Irish soda bread. We will need the following items:

Plates, Cups, Napkins, Small Snack (i.e. cookies), Butter, Cream Cheese, A green drink (for all you creative people – good luck!), Apple juice

One by one people stepped up via email, offering to send stuff in. Someone said they would bring green punch. Someone else said they would send in butter. “We will work on making it green!,” they said. Everything, it seemed, was going to be green. Translation: There would be a whole lot of artificial food dyes being consumed that day.

As I sat there all I could think about was a recent gathering I had attended where the kids got Hawaiian Punch. Red Hawaiian punch. Soon after, they were bouncing off the walls. What would happen when a class of 20 kids consumed a ton of green food dye? How would they concentrate? How would their bodies and minds handle it?

Yes, I know that I am in the minority when it comes to watching out for artificial colors. I know that most parents don’t worry about that at all. (BTW: I don’t think it’s that they don’t care. I think it’s that they don’t know.) But still. These are kids. It’s school. You’d think the educators would know better. You’d think those people who care so freaking much about test scores would do everything in their power to keep artificial dyes out of the classroom. You’d think such parties would be taken as opportunities to teach kids that eating healthy can be fun, and that their bodies are worth something. They are not garbage cans to throw more and more crap into. But that’s simply not the case, I guess.

Anyway, I couldn’t stand it anymore, so I wrote a letter to the class mom, CCing the vice principal and the teacher. Here is my [mostly] unedited letter, some of which was taken from this blog post I wrote:

I’m going to send an alternate green juice made with natural vegetable dyes. Also, I’d like to send natural cookies, too, as I prefer that my child NOT ingest artificial colors. They are harmful to children.

About two years ago, The Center for Science in the Public Interest formally petitioned the Food and Drug Administration to ban eight artificial colors that have been conclusively linked to hyperactivity in children: Yellow 5, Red 40, Blue 1, Blue 2, Green 3, Orange 8, Red 3, and Yellow 6.

The FDA this month will finally get around to determining whether or not the ban should happen. Meanwhile, in Europe, there’s already a warning label on foods that contain these chemicals: “Consumption may have an adverse effect on activity and attention in children.”

Here’s a story that you might be interested in: http://www.wbaltv.com/r/26988865/detail.html

I’d think, with concentration being so important at school, that the school would dissuade the consumption of something that multiple organizations and scientists have found to cause serious concentration issues and hyperactivity in children.

Big Girl’s old school did not allow anything with food dyes or high fructose corn syrup to come into class at any time. I’ve stayed silent all year since I did not want to butt in. I simply feed my child, and mind my business. However, when I saw you were going out of your way to request green food, I felt the need to speak out. I’ve CCed [insert teacher's name] and [insert vice principal's name] so they are aware of how I feel about this, too.

Before anyone says that I am ruining a good time, please understand: I’m not saying that I don’t want kids to celebrate the holiday. I’m not saying that we should ban parties. All I am saying is that there are other ways to show kids a good time than by loading them up with chemicals and dyes. If I was class mom I would have asked for some green fruit — honeydew, apples, kiwi, grapes. And I would have encouraged people to bring in healthy sweets without high fructose or artificial dyes.

I can’t wait to see the response I get. I’m sure it will not be good. For example, I’m sure the class mom will be offended. Whenever you point out that one type of food is unhealthy, people take it as a criticism of what they are doing with their kids. And the administrators? Well, I’m not hoping for much. In fact, all I want is permission to send my healthy options in. The last time I asked I was told that I was not allowed to send in anything extra because the moms of the kids with allergies want to duplicate everything that comes into the classroom. I didn’t give them enough notice. Well, I’m giving them two weeks notice, and I’m letting the administrators know, too. In the meantime, I’ll be making a trip to Whole Foods to pick up some of the India Tree natural food dyes that I found, which are made entirely of plant-based dyes. It comes in a three pack of primary colors so you can mix any color under the rainbow. Maybe they will let me send something healthy in. You never know, right?

This post is how I am participating this week in Real Food Wednesdays and Fight Back Fridays — two awesome campaigns to get people eating real food again.

5 Responses to “Green: It’s the Color of Hyperactivity”

  1. sa'ada says:

    hello, i came from fight back fridays. great job with the letter; i hope it helps. please let us know about the response.

  2. Julie says:

    How can people who don’t care if you eat unhealthy care if you eat healthy?! It never even would have occurred to me to ask. I just would have sent her on her way with what I wanted her to eat.

  3. Sara says:

    I feel strongly about food dyes too. I am tired of picking my daughter up from preschool with her mouth stained with blue food dyes. I think that I will try your approach with a letter. If you never ask things will never change. Good job!

    p.s. Let us know the outcome :)

  4. Curious to hear the result. My second son had severe reactions to food dyes as a preschooler and even now – at 15 – recognizes that things like jelly beans make him feel “tight.” Another alternative for making green colored food is to use chlorophyll (comes in liquid or tablet forms).

  5. Chris says:

    To think that ingesting a petroleum product will not cause adverse reaction over time is ridiculous. Anyone would be hard pressed to find a regular food on the market that does not contain some sort of food dye. It is in everything we eat. It is said that an average human being eats about 11 pounds of toxic chemicals each year and we wonder why ADD, ADHD, Bipolar and Cancer are growing at an alarming rate. There is absolutely no reason to add a petroleum product (food coloring) to anything we eat. The only reason the manufacturers do it is strictly marketing related. They have performed studies that show the human brain perceives bright colors like we see in nature, apples, grapes, oranges, tomatoes as good for our bodies. Therefore if they add color to it and make it brighter, human instinct kicks in and our brains crave it. In reality we are slowly killing ourselves and our children.
    I absolutely hate when I read articles that state there are no studies that show food coloring is harmful. That is just the FDA’s way of saying the lobbyist have more power than you do. I have a child that began to act out with aggression and behaviors that were not natural, nor logical. We struggled for years as he was kicked out of daycare after daycare. As a last resort we took him to a doctor who diagnosed him as bipolar and put him on medication. We hated this but at the time; it was all we could do. We did not want him to hurt himself or anyone else. At one point he jumped out of a car at stoplight on a busy street because we passed a toy store and he was mad that we did not go there. After he was placed on medication, his issues lessened but did not go away completely. After about a year on the medication, he went through about a three week period where he slid back into the uncontrollable personality that he had been before the medication. I began to look at what had changed. I realized that a family member had given us a case of the little orange cheese crackers and a case of a well known ranch flavored potato chips (I don’t want to mention names). Our kids at these standard US snacks at the rate of about 5 or six packages a day during those three weeks. I began to put two and two together and realized the common denominator was food coloring. We removed all foods with artificial food coloring, which by the way was not as easy as it sounds, and within a few days our child was calmed, sweet, and caring again. The few times he had a meltdown was directly related to a food with dye in it. One time we could not figure out why he was acting out, all he had was pizza. Then I found out there is yellow dye in pizza crust. Why you might ask? So it looks pretty and your brain tells you it is healthy food. At this point we have backed his medication down to the lowest dosage and over the summer we plan to completely take him off the medication. Without food dye in his system we have seen an amazing turn around in his personality. It is like night and day. If he get any food dye we see aggression within about thirty to forty minutes after he ate the food coloring. I wish the FDA would call me. I could shoe them in just a few sessions what type of affect this has on our child.
    I find it amazing as I look around and kids are cramming cupcakes with bright blue frosting in their mouths at alarming rates, while the parents stand there and say, “I don’t know why little Johnny is ADD. Where did I go wrong?” … Really? I challenge you to walk in your local convenience store and find an item without artificial dye and by the why “Carmel coloring” found in many products is not natural either, it just sounds like it is.
    Wake up America! The FDA has to quite playing the lobbyist money game while our children are the pawns.
    Join us on FaceBook to ban food coloring today! http://www.facebook.com/?ref=home#!/home.php?sk=group_212701462084640

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