Red Dye Dangers
Reporter: KAKE News

Red Dye Dangers

The food in your refrigerator could make your child, or you, psychotic. It all depends on your genes and the color of your food. Our KAKE on your side investigation reveals why everyone should pay attention to those hidden ingredients in what they eat.

Color has nothing to do with the taste of your food, but if you see a red liquid, you'll probably think it's sweet and we all know what neon yellow liquid should taste like. Lemon lime, right? All those colors are artificial. For most of us, they don't matter much. They're there only to make food more appealing, especially for kids, but for some they're a debilitating problem.

Gavin Jones is a bright, kind of shy, five year old. Yet the Gavin we met isn't the same kid pediatrician Debra Debiasse saw in her office. Gavin's mom says she was at her wits end. She was seeing red, and in the end, red was the answer.

Gavin was suffering from a very rare but very real food reaction, hypersensitivity, not to the food itself, but to the dye, in his food. His teachers wanted to label him attention deficit disorder. His mom figured out all she had to do was read the labels.

Gavin's mom says she started seeing behavior problems at home and at school they told her he was a little bit more aggressive. At first, it was quite possibly typical behavior for a four year old, but things took a turn for the worse quickly.

"He was saying things to the teacher like I'm going to knife you, he had a little plastic knife, I'm going to knife you I'm going to hit you and then he would laugh" Gavin's mother recalls.

With his sudden aggressive behavior, teachers want to put Gavin through a behavior checklist. Jones didn't buy it, and looks for another cause. She finds it in her cupboard.

Gavin was taking an antibiotic so his mother thought that could be the cause. They took him off the antibiotic and while his behavior was getting better each day, his mother says it still wasn't what it should be. She than began to look at other things he was taking. A multivitamin was colored red like the antibiotic was. So was his children's allergy medicine.

After taking him off both the multivitamin and the allergy medicine his behavior became more and more normal. His mother than began checking all of the food Gavin was eating. Almost everywhere she looked, she found dye. A pediatrition told KAKE; "when you look at all the ingredients on every package and things like luncheon meats and pizza and there are so many products that have added preservatives or dyes"

Doctor Debiasse found Gavin exhibiting classic symptoms of reacting with the food dye. She said "it's not a natural allergy in the sense that it's something like an allergy to nuts it's more of a food sensitivity reaction" Rather than causing a runny nose or hives, Gavin's body reacted to the dye with behavioral changes.

"I've seen patients here that when they eat a certain food dye they go crazy, hyperactive, throw things, become almost psychotic." Says Allergist Thom Rosenberg. He calls it an idiosyncratic reaction.

The condition is extremely rare. Rosenberg says he only sees it in about two patients a year. But it raises a larger issue. What are we really putting in our, and our kids' bodies?

KAKE went to a local school to take a look at the ingredients in some of the foods the kids were eating. The lists of ingredients on some foods weren't bad. This strawberry milk, for example, seemed to be dye free. But almost everything else we looked at had some kind of dye. Try this lemonade, yellow dye, This Gatorade, red dye, these candies, three different kinds of dye, and this Lunchable, almost half a dozen different food dyes. The dyes were listed at the end of the list of ingredients. They can be tough to spot unless you are specifically looking for them.

Doctors warn, "Every parent should be aware of a lot of the environmental factors their children are exposed to" This includes food. The best way to keep your child healthy, limit the processed snack food, try to include more whole foods in yours and your children's diet, and be aware of how your child is acting.

Remember, if you do suspect your child is reacting, there is no test to figure it out, except trail and error. If you notice your child reacts to a certain food or certain color of food, keep that food away for a couple of weeks and see if the behavior improves.

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