Research & Studies

Scientific Support for Feingold® Program

Potential impacts of synthetic food dyes on activity and attention in children: a review of the human and animal evidence, Environmental Health, 2022, April

“Together, the human clinical trials and animal toxicology literature support an association between synthetic food dyes and behavioral impacts in children.”

Artificial food coloring affects EEG power and ADHD symptoms in college students with ADHD: A pilot study, Kirkland, Nutritional Neuroscience, 2020

“This is the first study to test the effects of AFC (artificial colors) in young adults…this study uses the largest dose (225 mg) of combined AFC to date, an amount that is still physiologically appropriate and able to be consumed by an adult which eating normal food products.”

Food labeling requirement may explain lower autistic and ADHD prevalence in the United Kingdom, Dufault, Integrated Food, Nutrition and Metabolism, 2018

The prevalence of autism is 11 children per thousand in the United States, while it is only 4 per thousand in the U.K. In the U.S. 9.4% of children have an ADHD diagnosis but in the U.K. it is just 1.5%. The author credits the European law that requires warning labels required on foods with certain dyes, enabling parents to avoid them.

The effects of dietary education on ADHD, a randomized controlled clinical trial. Ghanizadeh, Annals of General Psychiatry, March 2015

The study found a “significant relationship” between a healthier diet and measurement of attention in children with ADHD.

Nutrition, immunological mechanisms and dietary immunomodulation in ADHD, Verlaet, European Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, July 2014

The author describes diet as a “safe and low-cost ADHD therapy.”

The influence of components of diet on the symptoms of ADHD in children, Konikowska, Roczniki Panstwowego, 2012

“Results of food research suggest that food additives and salicylates may aggravate hyperactive behavior [in] children.”

Effects of a restricted elimination diet on the behaviour of children with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder: a randomised controlled trial, Pelsser, The Lancet, Feb 2011

“…dietary intervention is the standard of care for all children with ADHD.”

The Potential Health Hazard of Tartrazine and Levels of Hyperactivity, Anxiety-Like Symptoms, Depression and Anti-social Behaviour in Rats, Kamel MM, El-lethey HS, Journal of American Science, 2011

“This study provides sufficient scientific evidence that a causal link truly exists between tartrazine and inflection of hyperactivity, anxiety and depression-like behaviours in rats and points to the hazardous impact of tartrazine on public health.”

Cytogenetic evaluation and DNA interaction studies of the food colorants amaranth, erythrosine and tartrazine, Mpountoukas P, et al. Food and Chemistry Toxicology, 2010

“Our results indicate that these food colorants had a toxic potential to human lymphocytes in vitro and it seems that they bind directly to the DNA.”

From the website of the American Academy of Family Physicians:

“Studies have shown that certain food colorings and preservatives may cause or worsen hyperactive behavior in some children.”

British Medical Journal May 2008:

In an editorial, Andrew Kemp, M.D., professor of pediatrics at the University of Sydney writes, “In view of the relatively harmless intervention of eliminating colorings and preservatives, and the large number of children taking drugs for hyperactivity, it might be proposed that an appropriately supervised and evaluated trial of eliminating colorings and preservatives should be part of standard treatment for children.”

AAP Grand Rounds February, 2008, published by the American Academy of Pediatrics.

“…a trial of a preservative-free, food coloring-free diet is a reasonable intervention.” 

“Thus, the overall findings of the [McCann] study are clear and require that even we skeptics, who have long doubted parental claims of the effects of various foods on the behavior of their children, admit we might have been wrong.”

Food additives and hyperactive behavior in 3-year-old and 8/9-year-old children in the community: a randomized, double-blinded, placebo-controlled trial. McCann et al., The Lancet November, 2007

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

Synergistic Interaction Between Commonly Used Food Additives in a Developmental Neurotoxicity Test. Lau K, et al. Toxicological Sciences. March, 2006

Testing the amount of additives often found in snack foods, Lau combined Blue 1 and MSG, and Yellow 10 and aspartame. The combinations were synergistic, far more toxic than expected by adding up the effect of each one tested alone. Blue 1 + MSG was 4 times as toxic and Yellow 10 + aspartame was 7 times as toxic.

Do Artificial Food Colors Promote Hyperactivity in Children with Hyperactive Syndromes? A Meta-Anaylsis of Double-Blind Placebo-Controlled Trials. David W. Schab, MD., MPH, Nhi-ha T. Trinh, MD, MPH, The Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics, December 2004

“…this study is consistent with accumulating evidence that neurobehavioral toxicity may characterize a variety of widely distributed chemicals.”

The Effects of a Double Blind Placebo Controlled Artificial Food Colourings and Benzoate Preservatives Challenge on Hyperactivity in a General Population Sample of Pre-school Children. B. Bateman, et. al., Archives of Disease in Childhood June, 2004

“There is a general adverse effect of artificial food colouring and benzoate preservatives on the behaviour of 3-year-old children which is detectable by parents but not by a simple clinic assessment.”

Favorable effect of a standard elimination diet on the behavior of young children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD): a pilot study. L. Pelsser et al., Ned Tijdschr Geneeskd December, 2002

25 of 40 children (62%) who met the DSM-IV criteria for ADHD showed an improvement in behavior of at least 50% after two weeks on a standard elimination diet, according to parent ratings using the 10-item Conners list, the ADHD Rating Scale, and a physical complaint list,. Among the children with both parent and teacher ratings, 10 of 15 (68%) improved both at home and at school.

“In young children with ADHD, an elimination diet can lead to a statistically significant decrease in symptoms.”

Synthetic Food Coloring and Behavior: A Dose Response Effect in a Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled, Repeated-Measures Study. K.S. Rowe, K.J. Rowe, Journal of Pediatrics November, 1994

150 of 200 children (75%) improved on an open trial of a diet free of synthetic food coloring, and 63% of them responded to a single-item challenge of tartrazine [FD&C Yellow #5 food dye]. In the double-blind portion, the study identified 24 children as clear reactors, including 19 of the 23 “suspected reactors” (82.5%). When they reacted to the dye, the younger children had “constant crying, tantrums, irritability, restlessness, and severe sleep disturbance,” and were described as “disruptive,” “easily distracted and excited” and “out of control.”

Foods and Additives are Common Causes of the Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder in Children. M. Boris, F. Mandel, Annals of Allergy May, 1994

73% of the children responded favorably. “This study demonstrates a beneficial effect of eliminating reactive foods and artificial colors in children with ADHD. Dietary factors may play a significant role in the etiology of the majority of children with ADHD…In summary, this double-blind, placebo-controlled food challenge study supports the role of dietary factors in ADHD. 

Through a simple elimination diet symptoms can be controlled…Elimination of the causes of ADHD is preferable to the pharmacologic therapy of this condition.”

The American Academy of Pediatrics 

"Artificial food colors may be associated with exacerbation of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder symptoms."  Studies cited in the report found a restriction diet benefits some children with ADHD.

Food Additives and Child Health, Pediatrics (the journal of the AAP), August, 2018

Toxicology of Food Dyes

From the International Journal of Occupational Environmental Health, 2012 Jul-Sep

Background: Food dyes, synthesized originally from coal tar and now petroleum, have long been controversial because of safety concerns. Many dyes have been banned because of their adverse effects on laboratory animals or inadequate testing.

Conclusions: This review finds that all of the currently US-approved dyes raise health concerns of varying degrees. Red 3 causes cancer in animals, and there is evidence that several other dyes also are carcinogenic. Three dyes (Red 40, Yellow 5, and Yellow 6) have been found to be contaminated with benzidine or other carcinogens. 

At least four dyes (Blue 1, Red  40, Yellow 5, and Yellow 6) cause hypersensitivity reactions. Numerous microbiological and rodent studies of Yellow 5 were positive for genotoxicity. (Note: genotoxicity refers to damage to the genetic information in a cell; this causes mutations which may lead to cancer.) The inadequacy of much of the testing and the evidence for carcinogenicity, genotoxicity, and hypersensitivity, coupled with the fact that dyes do not improve the safety or nutritional quality of foods, indicates that all of the currently used dyes should be removed from the food supply and replaced, if at all, by safer colorings.

Why Is Red 3 Allowed In Food But Not In Cosmetics?

According to Lauren Kirchner, an investigative reporter for Consumer Reports, “The short answer: Bureaucracy, it seems. As the recent petition to the FDA puts it “There is no scientific or public health justification for permitting the use of FD&C Red No. 3 dye in food while prohibiting [the dye] in cosmetics and externally applied drugs.”


According to the Environmental Working Group nearly 3,000 food products in the United States contain Red 3. The government has known for decades that this dye causes cancer.


The Food and Drug Administration requires that the precautions section of prescription drug labels include the warning statement, “This product contains FD&C Yellow No. 5 (tartrazine) which may cause allergic-type reactions (including bronchial asthma) in certain susceptible persons.”


“Since 2011, it is evident that dyes are linked to harmful effects in children. Artificial dyes have neurotoxic chemicals that aggravate mental health problems.”

Advances in Neurobiology, 2020

Thirty-two years ago the FDA said it would “take steps” to ban Red 3 from foods. So far it has not

A Tale of Two Dyes

You probably know that when a product lists a color, followed by a number, this means it contains a petroleum-based dye. For example, you might see Red 3 or Red 40 on an ingredient label; they are the only synthetic red dyes still allowed to be added to foods. But what about all those missing numbers? Why don’t foods have Red 1 or 2, and what happened to all the numbers between 3 and 40?

Some of the fake dyes have been discontinued by the manufacturer, but most of them (all the colors, not just red) have been banned as health hazards because they were found to cause serious problems including respiratory distress and cancer. So does that mean we are rid of them? Sadly, no. The Food and Drug Administration allows them to be used in drugs and cosmetics.

So the medicine given to a sick child can be laced with chemicals known to damage one’s health. And products you use daily, that go on your skin and are absorbed into your body, can contain hazardous chemicals like Red 29, Red 30 or Yellow 10. It’s easy to think that the two surviving red dyes — Red 3 and Red 40 — must have been found to be safe to use...right? Nope, they are as bad as their many outlawed cousins. In fact, parents often observe that their child’s behavior goes downhill after he has been exposed to a food that includes fake dyes.

Fortunately, nobody needs to eat petrochemicals as there are plenty of natural alternatives.

Sure, those little bottles are cute, but what’s inside is not!

Yellow 5, Red 40 and six other fake dyes are banned in Norway, Finland, France, Austria and the United Kingdom.

“Why should Americans continue to consume these synthetic dyes when many multinational companies are phasing them out elsewhere?” asked former CSPI executive director, Michael Jacobson