In an effort to show the public just how much synthetic dye families are consuming each day, KIND Healthy Snacks set up an eye-catching display in Herald Square in New York City. KIND’s marketing team filled giant vials with the dyes most commonly consumed by today’s families. The results were shocking. The colorful vials might create a pretty picture to someone passing by, but upon closer inspection the vats of bright colors are anything but picturesque.
The 2000 gallons of dye represented in this display were based on estimates of the average American child’s daily synthetic dye consumption, gathered from data released in a 2014 study in Clinical Pediatrics. That number was then multiplied by the 74 million children in the U.S. according to our current census data.
While 2000 gallons might sound like a lot (and it is), current numbers would likely be even higher. The amount of dye in children’s food has only increased since the study was done in 2014.
Unfortunately, consumers’ buying habits are driving the trend to use more dyes.
Although the FDA has cracked down on artificial flavors and colors targeting our kids, one walk down the snack aisle of a grocery store can assault your eyes with bright colors and unnatural shapes. Goldfish crackers aren’t just cheese or pretzel flavor anymore, they’re “flavor blasted” and rainbow colored. One 2016 study published in Clinical Pediatrics found that 96% of candies and 94% of fruit snacks marketed to kids contain unnecessary dyes.
Food makers are slowly jumping on the bandwagon of reducing artificial ingredients in foods, but as KIND discovered, people are still lured in by flashy food. KIND’s recent attempt at natural fruit snacks was pulled from the shelves because of the public’s lack of interest. Without bright colors and cartoonish shapes, today’s kids just weren’t begging their parents for another box.
More research on the effects of these dyes is needed—and public awareness is a good first step.
Forced to decide between changing what their brand stands for or bowing out of the fruit snack race, KIND decided to kill the product with KIND-ness and show NYC what consumers are actually consuming. That’s what the Herald Square display is all about. In a recent interview with Spectrum News NY, KIND founder Daniel Lubetzky discussed the risks of continuing society’s love of all things artificial.
“It’s understandable why most big food conglomerates have gone toward cheaper ingredients, but you pay for it at the end of the road when you end up in the hospital,” he says.
So how do families move towards a snack time that doesn’t leave an orange film on their fingers or blue-stained tongues? The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) recommends introducing better options by serving “snacks with fun plates, napkins, cups, or straws or have a tasting party where children can vote for their favorite healthy snacks.”
The CSPI acknowledges that it can be tough to trade the convenience of store-bought snacks for healthy alternatives. Still, they maintain that cost shouldn’t be a factor. “Though some think fruits and vegetables are costly snacks, they are actually less costly than many other less-healthful snacks on a per-serving basis.”
The only color children should be getting in their diets is from natural sources like fruits and vegetables. Hopefully by facing the facts (and a visual display of their not-so-great nutritional choices), families can begin to change the supply and demand dynamic our culture has created. Maybe one day fruit snacks that look like fruit won’t be such a novelty anymore.