Mom leads fight to remove artificial food dyes from M&M's

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by Elizbeth Cohen, CNN

azfamily.com

Posted on January 8, 2014 at 12:03 PM

Updated Wednesday, Jan 8 at 12:05 PM

JAMESTOWN, N.Y. -- They're some of America's favorite little treats, but now there's push for Mars, Incorporated to change M&M's? Some parents say the dyes used to give popular candies their bright colors makes their kids hyperactive.

One mother has launched a petition to make the manufacturer adjust how the candies are colored, a process that varies in different parts of the world. She wants the company to use the natural coloring agents its uses in Europe.

The colors of M&M's are so iconic. They're the candy-coated stars of their own TV commercials.

The process that gives the real M&M's their colors that has some parents up at arms, especially considering that different dyes are used in different parts of the world.

Here in the U.S., artificial food colorings derived from petroleum are used. In England, however, the colors come mostly from plants.

"I just think it's not fair that our country is the one getting the artificial dyes while Europe is getting natural dyes," Renee Shutters, the Jamestown, N.Y. woman behind the petition, explained.

She said her son Trenton, 9, used to suffer regular "meltdowns," but then his behavior improved remarkably when she took artificial dyes out of his diet, including M&M's.

Now she's building support for her cause. More than 140,000 people have signed her Change.org petition, calling on the candy company Mars to remove artificial food coloring from M&M's.

And she just might have a chance.

In November, under similar pressure from parents, Kraft took out the iconic artificial yellow coloring contained in some of its mac-and-cheese products. It swapped it for a natural coloring. Mars told CNN in a statement that they are exploring the use of natural colorings. They've already obtained approval from the Food and Drug Administration for a natural blue and green dye.

But changing to natural colors won't happen overnight, the company warns, and they say they have "absolute confidence" in all their ingredients.

It's debatable whether artificial colorings really do cause hyperactivity. The FDA says for some kids, they may be an issue. Shutters is convinced that artificial dyes adversely affected her son, making him hyperactive.

"I thank God every single day that we figured this out," she said. "What breaks my heart is thinking about all these families that will never put those pieces together."

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