Nestlé USA recently announced it is removing artificial flavors and artificial colors from all of its chocolate candy products by the end of this year. Over 250 products and 10 brands will be free of artificial ingredients. By mid-2015, products featuring a label that declares “No Artificial Flavors or Colors” will start appearing on store shelves.
Nestlé USA plans to replace artificial flavors and colors with ones from natural sources, and cites several examples. In the Butterfinger candy bar, annatto, derived from the seeds in the fruit from the achiote tree, will replace Red 40 and Yellow 5. In Crunch, natural vanilla flavor will replace artificial vanillin.
“Nestlé is the world’s leading nutrition, health and wellness company and our commitment to remove artificial flavors and certified colors in our chocolate candy brands is an important milestone,” said Doreen Ida, president, Nestlé USA Confections & Snacks, in a statement. “We know that candy consumers are interested in broader food trends around fewer artificial ingredients. As we thought about what this means for our candy brands, our first step has been to remove artificial flavors and colors without affecting taste or increasing the price. We’re excited to be the first major U.S. candy manufacturer to make this commitment.”
According to Ida, Nestlé USA conducted research on certain brands and found that U.S. consumers prefer candy to be free of artificial flavors and colors. A 2014 survey found that over 60 percent of Americans say no artificial flavors or colors is important to their food purchasing decisions. In other words, Nestlé is responding to consumer demand.
What’s the big deal, you might be asking? Artificial flavors and colors have been linked to hyperactivity, attention deficit disorder (ADD), attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), according to the book Unjunk Your Junk Food by the creators of the site NaturallySavvy.com (Where I’ve been a writer for years).
Here is an overview of some studies linking artificial flavors and colors to ADD and ADHD:
- A 2004 review of studies on artificial food colorings (AFCs) found that “neurobehavioral toxicity may characterize a variety of widely distributed chemicals,” but cautioned that more research is needed before clinical recommendations can be made.
- A 2007 study found that “artificial colors or a sodium benzoate preservative (or both) in the diet result in increased hyperactivity in 3-year-old and 8/9-year-old children in the general population.”
- A 2011 advisory committee to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) found that children with ADHD “and other problem behaviors…may be exacerbated by exposure to a number of substances in food, including, but not limited to, synthetic color additives.”
- A report by the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) looked at the nine currently approved food dyes and lists health concerns for each one. For example, Red 40, the most widely used food coloring, “may accelerate the appearance of immune-system tumors in mice,” and causes “hypersensitivity (allergy-like) reactions in a small number of consumers and might trigger hyperactivity in children.”
Artificial colors and flavors are not essential parts of food products, so it makes sense for food companies to remove them. Though one wonders, if natural versions of the artificial additives have been available all this time, why did Nestlé start using them in the first place?