Campaign to Get Dyes Out of M&M's Gains Momentum

100,000 People Sign Petition Urging Mars to Scrap Dyes, Linked to Hyperactivity in Children


Appearing on NBC's Today Show yesterday, a mother of two from Jamestown, NY, urged Mars to take artificial dyes out of Americans' M&M's. A petition Renee Shutters started on with the nonprofit Center for Science in the Public Interest now has more than 100,000 signatures urging Mars executives to abandon the dyes, which studies have linked to hyperactivity and other behavior problems in some children. While Mars has phased most artificial dyes out of the European version of M&M's—partly because of a European Union rule requiring warning labels on dyed foods—American M&M's are still colored with Blue 1, Blue 2, Yellow 5, Yellow 6, and Red 40.

Shutters' 9-year-old son Trenton had been having trouble in school, with hockey practice, and with his sleep schedule. But after following the Feingold diet, which eliminated dyes and some other substances to identify problems, Trenton's behavior showed marked improvement, noted by his coaches and teachers as well as his mom. "We saw amazing results at school, we saw amazing results in his attitude, he was happy; no more meltdowns at all," Shutters told Today’s Jeff Rossen.

"I changed to no dyes, and I just felt so good," Trenton told Today.

CSPI encourages parents who plan on handing out M&M's, Skittles, Nerds, or other dyed candies to Halloween trick-or-treaters to hand out dye-free candy, healthy snacks, or non-food items instead. The group has urged the Food and Drug Administration to ban artificial food dyes since 2008. Besides being linked to behavioral problems, the dyes are inadequately tested for their potential cancer risks.

"It has been established in clinical trials that artificial dyes cause or worsen problems in some, but not all, children," said CSPI executive director Michael F. Jacobson. "But why tolerate an adverse impact on any children, given that these complex chemicals are serving a purely cosmetic role in M&M's or other foods? Mars could play an important leadership role by eliminating these unnecessary chemicals in all of their American candies, as they’ve just about done in Europe."

Besides candy, food dyes appear in drinks, snack chips, boxed macaroni and cheese, cake mixes, frozen waffles, cereals, and countless other foods. Sometimes, dyes are employed to help simulate the presence of healthy ingredients in products that contain, or appear to contain, fruit. Even some foods that aren’t particularly colorful, such as marshmallows, instant mashed potatoes, or cheese dip contain dyes.

CSPI and the Shutters family hope that as more people sign the petition on, Mars will be more likely to consider replacing food dyes—a move which they say would almost certainly inspire similar changes throughout the food industry. An earlier petition on started by 15-year-old Sarah Kavanagh of Hattiesburg, MS, helped hasten a decision by PepsiCo to remove a controversial additive, brominated vegetable oil, from Gatorade.

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Contact Jeff Cronin (jcronin[at] or Ariana Stone (astone[at]