Crayola challenged to show its true colors in consumer backlash against artificially dyed candies

By Vladimir Pekic

- Last updated on GMT

'Artificially flavored candy,' proclaims the front of Crayola's pack
'Artificially flavored candy,' proclaims the front of Crayola's pack

Related tags: Food coloring, E number, Color

Crayon maker Crayola has confirmed it is aware of an ongoing public appeal that urges the company to stop marketing its Color Your Mouth candy products to children.

A petition, launched on Change.org, raises fears that the ‘controversial artificial dyes [used] can trigger hyperactivity in many sensitive children.’

However, Crayola insists its colorants are Food and Drug Administration FDA approved, listed according to regulations, and pose no risk to children.

FDA-approved colors

The petition was launched two-weeks ago on Change.org, urging Crayola not to market highly dyed candy products to children. It was initiated by the Rossi family of Weatherby Lake, Missouri, jointly with the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI). The CSPI is a nonprofit education and advocacy organization that focuses on improving the safety and nutritional quality of the US food supply.

The CSPI says artificial dyes help trigger food-induced hyperactivity in children such as nine-year-old Alessandra Rossi.

When Alessandra and her mom Julie saw that beloved crayon manufacturer Crayola began licensing its brand name for an intensely dyed line of candies, they got angry,” ​said the CSPI. “Crayola, a wholly owned subsidiary of greeting card giant Hallmark, is lending its name to Color Your Mouth candies whose dyes are specifically designed to stain kids’ tongues bright colors​.”  

Color Your Mouth gumballs are available in six varieties and each artificially colored gumball turns consumers’ tongues a different color. The gumballs, which are manufactured in Mexico and distributed by Bee International, are available in Red Cherry, Orange Orange, Yellow Lemon, Green Apple, Blue Raspberry and Purple Grape color variants.

The Crayola gumballs are made with sugar, corn syrup, gum base, unspecified artificial flavors, and Red 3, Red 40, Yellow 5, Yellow 6, and Blue 1, according to the CSPI.

‘A fun way for kids to colorfully express themselves,’ says Crayola​        

When asked about the petition, Eric Zebley, Crayola’s corporate communication representative, told ConfectioneryNews: “We are aware of the petition regarding Crayola Color Your Mouth candy. At Crayola, we are committed to making and selling products that meet the highest standards of quality and, in this case, food safety. 

All of the colorants in Color Your Mouth candy comply with our own strict internal quality and safety requirements as well as all applicable laws, regulations and safety assessments relating to color added to food. The colorants, which are FDA approved, are listed on the label according to applicable national laws and regulations​,” he added.

Appeal for ban

Although the dyes have the green light from US authorities, the CSPI has repeatedly urged the FDA to ban Red 40, Yellow 5, and six other food dyes, claiming they have a disruptive impact on children’s behavior. Three meta-analyses have concluded that dyes adversely affect children’s behavior, as have two important studies funded by the British government, says the organization.

In addition, two of the most widely used dyes—Yellow 5 and Yellow 6—can be contaminated by known human carcinogens, and the most widely used dye—Red 40—can contain a chemical ‘reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen,’​” the CSPI added.

Supporting the CSPI appeal, Julie Rossi said: “As a mother whose family has benefited from eliminating artificial dyes from our diet, I do not believe these products should be marketed directly to children​.”

However, Crayola points out there is no risk posed to children and indicated that it would not make a U-turn in its policy of using artificial dyes in its candy products. Although the online petition addressed to Crayola president and CEO Mike Perry has already attracted 6,973 supporters, the company maintains it is already committed to making and selling products that meet the highest standards of quality and food safety. 

Color Your Mouth candy is a fun way for kids to colorfully express themselves while enjoying different candy flavors​,” explained Zebley, adding that if a parent has concerns, “they should not allow their child to eat the candy.​”

Online petitions spread

The CSPI and Rossi petition​ is part of a wider trend that has seen individual consumers joining their voices to ask confectionery manufacturers to ensure that consumers’ concerns are heeded in the process of designing new edible products being developed for children.

A separate petition on Change.org​ urging Mars to get rid of artificial dyes in M&Ms has already attracted almost 200,000 signatures.

Kraft recently removed artificial yellow dyes from its Macaroni and Cheese product two years after another widely publicized petition​ was launched. The petition attracted 365,806 supporters who urged the company to do so. The petition organizers said that they hope the victory would motivate Kraft to continue to remove artificial food dyes from its other products like JELL-O and Kool Aid.

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