NYS Seal




Food additives and behavioral disorders.


To examine the potential relationship between food additives and hyperactivity in children.

New York City
Tuesday, October 30, 2007
11:00 AM
Assembly Hearing Room
250 Broadway
Room 1923, 19th Floor
New York, New York

According to federal food labeling regulations, a food additive is any substance not commonly regarded or used as food, which is added to, or used in or on, food at any stage to effect its keeping quality, texture, consistency, taste, color, alkalinity or acidity, or to serve any other technological function in relation to food, and included processing aids insofar as they are added to or used in or on food. Currently there are approximately 3,794 different additives used in or on food, 3,640 of those are used purely for cosmetic purposes, 63 are used as preservatives and 91 as processing aids. It has been estimated that some 200,000 tons of food additives are used annually, that 75% of the western diet consists of processed food and, that each person consumes an average of 8 to 10 pounds of food additives per year.

There has for decades been suspicion within the scientific community that food additives can cause behavioral disorders, particularly hyperactivity, in children. In general, hyperactivity in children manifests in behaviors such as distractibility, poor tolerance to frustration, temper tantrums, excitability, aggression and disabilities with both cognitive and learning functions. Hyperactivity often results in poor school performance, failing grades, increased dropout and expulsion rates, drug and alcohol abuse and involvement in the criminal justice system. As early as 1964 research conducted by Dr. Benjamin Feingold at Keiser Permanente Hospital in San Francisco, California indicated that compounds like artificial food dyes produce behavioral disorders in susceptible individuals. Most recently, a study released in September 2007 and published in the Lancet, the British Medical Journal, conclusively determined that some artificial additives increase hyperactivity and reduce attention span in a wide range of children. The research which was sponsored by the British Food Standards Agency raises a number of policy questions regarding the responsibility of government to regulate what some believe is the excessive use of food additives.

This hearing is intended to: initiate a discussion in New York State regarding the impact of food additives on children; ascertain the sufficiency of research into the issue; understand the food industry's motivation and responsibility with respect to excessive use of food additives; discuss possible responses to the increasing use of food additives in America's food; and discuss what government's role in response to these questions ought to be.

Please see below for a list of subjects to which witnesses may direct their testimony.

Persons wishing to present pertinent testimony to the Committee at the above hearing should complete and return the enclosed reply form as soon as possible. It is important that the reply form be fully completed and returned so that persons may be notified in the event of emergency postponement or cancellation.

Oral testimony will be limited to 10 minutes in duration. In preparing the order of witnesses, the Committee will attempt to accommodate individual requests to speak at particular times in view of special circumstances. These requests should be made on the attached reply form or communicated to Committee staff as early as possible. In the absence of a request, witnesses will be scheduled in the order in which reply forms are postmarked.

Ten copies of any prepared testimony should be submitted at the hearing registration desk. The Committee would appreciate advance receipt of prepared statements.

In order to further publicize these hearings, please inform interested parties and organizations of the Committees' interest in hearing testimony from all sources.

In order to meet the needs of those who may have a disability, the Assembly, in accordance with its policy of non-discrimination on the basis of disability, as well as the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), has made its facilities and services available to all individuals with disabilities. For individuals with disabilities, accommodations will be provided, upon reasonable request, to afford such individuals access and admission to Assembly facilities and activities.

Peter M. Rivera
Member of Assembly
Committee on Mental Health, Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities


  1. Are federal and state governments of the United States giving sufficient attention to the issue of the excessive use of food additives and the health impacts of such use?

  2. Has the available research clearly established a causal relationship between food additives and hyperactivity in children?

  3. Is there sufficient understanding and definition of essential versus non-essential food additives?

  4. Does there exist sufficient education and labeling procedures to ensure that the public is informed as to its level of food additive intake?

  5. What actions should be taken to protect the public from the impact of excessive food additive usage?


Persons wishing to present testimony at the public hearing on food additives and behavioral disorders are requested to complete this reply form as soon as possible and mail it to:

Bill Eggler
Legislative Analyst
Assembly Committee on Mental Health, Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities
Room 522 - Capitol
Albany, New York 12248
E-mail: egglerw@assembly.state.ny.us
Phone: (518) 455-4371
Fax: (518) 455-4693

box I plan to attend the public hearing on food additives and behavioral disorders to be conducted by the Assembly Committee on Mental Health, Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities on Tuesday, October 30, 2007.

box I plan to make a public statement at the hearing. My statement will be limited to 10 minutes, and I will answer any questions which may arise. I will provide 10 copies of my prepared statement.


I will address my remarks to the following subjects:

box I do not plan to attend the above hearing.

box I would like to be added to the Committee mailing list for notices and reports.

box I would like to be removed from the Committee mailing list.


I will require assistance and/or handicapped accessibility information. Please specify the type of assistance required:








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