Dunkin’ Donuts has announced it is removing artificial dyes from all doughnuts it sells in the United States.
“This is all part of a larger initiative to offer guests simpler ingredients and cleaner menu labels,” wrote Dunkin’ Brands manager Rick Golden. “Our biggest challenge was replacing the artificial dyes in donuts with fruit juices and other extracts while balancing the flavor profile and bright colors.”
The announcement also said Dunkin’ Donuts plans to remove artificial dyes across the menu by the end of the year on goods such as doughnut icings, frozen beverages, baked goods, breakfast sandwiches and coffee flavorings.
A disclaimer at the end of the announcement post also noted, “Toppings for limited edition and custom image donuts may contain synthetic dyes.”
Artificial dyes may have a slight effect on children, but current scientific research is not clear.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration says it strictly regulates artificial dyes and allows only ones with “a reasonable certainty of no harm” to consumers to be sold.
According to the FDA, 1 in 10,000 people may have hives or itching after eating color additive Yellow #5.
The agency also acknowledges there are some studies linking artificial dyes and increased hyperactivity in ADHD children, but points out these studies are not conclusive.
Scientific American looked at the studies of color additives and found mixed evidence.
“The literature here is so sparse that on the one hand you can sympathize with those who want to take a wait-and-see attitude,” Joel Nigg, professor of psychiatry, pediatrics and behavioral sciences at Oregon Health & Science University, told the magazine. “But on the other hand, when we do look at the literature we have, it's surprising that we do see effects that seem to be real.”
Nigg examined studies of color additives and found the additives had an effect on hyperactive behavior in children, with a small group of the affected kids showing more energetic behavior.
However, Nigg said more research should be done because so many of the artificial dye studies focused on small groups of people, making it hard to draw a conclusion about people in general.
He also said some studies have shown removing foods with color additives from a child’s diet can decrease his or her hyperactivity. This is likely because eating fewer processed foods is generally healthier and creates better “behavioral outcomes” in children with ADHD.
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