petition asks Mars to use natural colorings for M&M's

If Nestlé can do it, Mars can do it. That's what Jamestown, NY, mom Renee Shutters and the nonprofit Center for Science in the Public Interest are telling the latter company, after the former company decided to eliminate artificial food dyes, as well as artificial flavors, from all of its chocolate candies. Chemicals such as Red 40, Yellow 5, Yellow 6, and other artificial dyes promote hyperactivity and other behavioral problems in children, according to a number of published studies.

One such child who has adverse reactions to food dyes is Renee Shutters' 11-year-old son Trenton. After removing artificial dyes from his diet, Shutters saw dramatic improvements.

"His nightmares stopped and he was able to sleep through the night," Shutters wrote on the web site, where she and CSPI are petitioning Mars to remove dyes from M&M's and other foods. "Trent changed from a child who would have a meltdown if he didn't get his way during playtime to a calm student who could share and do his schoolwork."

More than 167,000 people have signed Shutters' petition.

CSPI offered praise for Nestlé's decision to phase out artificial dyes.

"Getting Red 40 and Yellow 5 out of Butterfinger bars won't make them health foods, but Nestlé's decision will help make the lives of affected children and their parents a little bit easier," said CSPI executive director Michael F. Jacobson. "Mars should follow suit and similarly phase artificial dyes out of M&M's and other candies. They've already done so in Europe, so there's no excuse for the company to offer their American customers an inferior product."

In the European Union, most dyed foods must bear a warning label stating that the food "may have an adverse effect on activity and attention in children." As a result, the majority of manufacturers have switched to safer, natural colorings in Europe.

In the United States, M&M's contain Blue 1, Blue 2, Yellow 5, Yellow 6, and Red 40. CSPI also said that Nestlé's move would have been more impressive had the company not limited its new policy to chocolate candies. Products like Wonka Pixy Stix and Fruit Runts will still contain various combinations of Blue 1, Blue 2, Red 40, Yellow 5, and Yellow 6.