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I’m smarter than the FDA

March 31, 2011

Food dyes used to make this angel a little less than angelic

I don’t remember which movie we saw. Don’t recall if we had all the kids with us or not. But I will never forget what happened when I let Graysen share my cherry Icee at the theater one afternoon.

It started with leg swinging, that quickly morphed into full-body fidgeting. With every sip, the energy level in Gray’s little body rose a notch or ten, until he was attempting to do gymnastics in his chair, and the aisle, and my lap. His interest in the movie was gone entirely, and he couldn’t hold still no matter how much we implored him. Finally, his dad picked him up and took him out.

They didn’t come back.

After the movie ended, I walked out to find Chris struggling to calm our little towhead, who had completely fallen apart in the lobby. He wanted to play video games but Chris had told him he didn’t have any change, then was faced with a sobbing screaming mess of a child he couldn’t take to the car because, unfortunately, I had the keys.

Somehow, we made it through the parking lot to the car and managed to get Gray strapped in. His screaming and flailing intensified, and Chris and I were dumbstruck. As we pulled out of the parking lot, I turned to look at my youngest child…and barely recognized him.

We put the pieces together pretty fast. The culprit in one of Gray’s most infamous meltdowns: the Icee.

We’re not regular Icee drinkers (nor movie goers, especially considering ticket prices these days!) but I like to indulge once in awhile. Generally, we as a family eat healthy, low on the food chain goodness with lots of natural color and variety. I buy organic whenever possible and we don’t eat much processed stuff. The kids rarely eat fast food….in fact, I can’t remember the last time we did. If you ask, they’ll tell you they can’t stand it, plus they know how harmful it all is to the animals and environment (not to mention their own health).

But sometimes we fall victim to the artificially colored, and aside from a sneaking sense of guilt, it was never really a problem.

I spent a lot of time contemplating the source of Gray’s psychodrama within the Icee. Sugar came first to mind, of course, but I crossed that off my mental list pretty quickly because he’d never had such a violent reaction to that before. Moving on, my brain immediately went to food dye. Good ol’ Red 40. And as I watched our small son convulse angrily in his carseat, despite my gentle hand on his knee, I knew I’d hit on the answer.

That was about 3 years ago but the memory is visceral. Once identified, we avoided all foods with dyes in them. Even my mom took to reading labels studiously–we all lived in veritable fear of the “Red Dye Effect.”

Now, it’s 2011 and the FDA is maybe possibly finally starting to catch on. They’re a little slow like that. But…better late than never, right?

While they get their bureaucratic butts in gear, here’s a little word to those who haven’t tested this theory yet: food dyes can make your kid go ballistic. Could they be the root of the ADD epidemic in this country?

It certainly makes sense to this mom.

Next time: I out myself as mom to two medicated ADHD-Inattentive type kids. Yes….it’s true though I never thought it would be us. Stay tuned.



3 Comments leave one →
  1. hallie permalink
    April 3, 2011 12:24 pm

    I tell the kids this every time they ask for treats after school. (None of them are ever my kids, but that’s irrelevant.) If they are artificially colored, I say HELL no. And I tell them exactly why. AND I tell them that if *their* moms want to deal with their food-dye crackhead behavior? That it is entirely up to them. But I admit, it is about me; no, I don’t want to deal with you when you are under the influence of food dye; and yes, there are probably other adults who don’t mind, but I’m not making choices for them, just for me. They’ll make their own choices later.

    We’ve been through this a number of times in recent months, what with Hallowe’en, xmas (both of which the boys STILL have leftover candy from; why does their mother/my sister not throw it out??) and birthdays, and Easter on the way. Chocolate, fine. Have all the chocolate you want. But dyed crap, no. No no no no no. Not on my shift.

    Some kids are not as bad off as others, but no freakin’ way will I give that shit to preschoolers. NO WAY. They can not handle it.

    • ana june permalink
      April 3, 2011 12:43 pm

      Ha! Crackhead behavior…I love it. Yes. That’s a very good way to describe it.
      A cousin of mine pointed out that high fructose corn syrup could be another part of the culprit, as dyes and hfcs tend to be found in the same products.

  2. hallie permalink
    April 3, 2011 1:52 pm

    that’s true … Trish’s son E. used to go beserkers when he got any form of corn. But with things like Cheetos, does it matter whether it’s the dye or the corn or the GMOs, or the [insert new industrial-age poison here]? None of it is food.

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