A new Environmental Health Perspectives paper discusses a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advisory committee’s recent conclusion that the evidence is too inconclusive to associate children’s consumption of artificial colors in food with hyperactivity or to recommend warning labels. Titled “Synthetic Food Colors and Neurobehavioral Hazards: The View from Environmental Health Research,” the paper suggests that if FDA had approached the issue from an environmental health perspective and broadened its inquiry to consider a range of adverse effects, current research findings could have supported a different outcome.

The author notes that the review confined itself “to the clinical diagnosis of hyperactivity . . . rather than asking the broader environmental question of behavioral effects in the general population; it failed to recognize the significance of vulnerable subpopulations; it misinterpreted the meaning of effect size as a criterion of risk.” The article concludes that scientific risk reviews with “too narrow a focus on a single outcome or criterion can be misleading.”