TODAY

TODAY   |  October 29, 2013

Rossen Reports: Mom opposes artificial dyes in candy

Researchers say there may be a link between artificial food dyes and behavioral problems in children with certain medical conditions. So why haven’t U.S. food makers switched to using natural colorings, as many in Europe have? NBC’s Jeff Rossen reports.

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>>> safety and your children. are common chemicals found in many products causing serious problems in some children? today national investigative correspondence jeff rossen has been looking into this. good morning.

>> good morning. i thought it would be a good time to do this story with halloween coming up this week. a lot of us are stocking up on candy like m&ms that come in different colors. it's artificial food dye but there maybe a link between those dyes and behavior problems in kid with certain conditions. this morning, one family's crusades to get the dyes out of your favorite foods.

>> which one is your favorite?

>> reporter: halloween. 9-year-old trenton and his mom renee love candy as much as the rest of us.

>> chocolate covered candy bars .

>> reporter: but there's a big difference in the candy they buy. no artificial colors at all.

>> i do not eat foods with artificial dyes in them.

>> reporter: his parents say trenton used to be a problem child with regular meltdowns and fits.

>> i start throwing tantrums. no matter what it is.

>> reporter: that's when his mom read about a possible link between artificial dyes in foods and behavior in some kids.

>> i'm like food coloring ? you mean food coloring could cause this? i never would have expected that.

>> reporter: so she stopped giving him food with those dyes and says the results, while unscientific were incredible. within days trenton was a different kid.

>> we saw amazing results at school. we saw amazing results in his attitude. he was happy. no more meltdowns at all. it was awesome.

>> reporter: the fda has been looking into these dyes for years and found while they're not toxic and don't cause hyperactivity in kids, the fda concluded for certain susceptible children with adhd and other problem behaviors the data suggests their condition maybe exacerbated by artificial food colors because of a unique sensitivity.

>> there's thousands of foods making it difficult for people to avoid them.

>> reporter: michael jacobson runs a watchdog group that says these dyes come in everything from candy to fruit drinks to waffles and mac and cheese. even in foods that aren't colorful like marshmallows and white frosting.

>> in europe, they have to put a warning label on the product. what have the companies done?

>> gotten rid of the dyes and replaced them with natural colorings.

>> why don't they do it here?

>> because of profits. dyes are cheaper than natural coloring.

>> money.

>> it's about money.

>> reporter: the makers of m&m, mars and gma said the overwhelming majority of studies confirm the safeties of the studies. they're always reviewing new studies for the safest possible product and mars is continuing to explore the use of natural colors but they still don't use natural colors in m&ms here.

>> dear ceo of mars incorporated --

>> reporter: so trenton and his mom are petitioning mars to take the artificial dyes out.

>> they changed. it's that big of a deal. it's that big of a deal. i just felt so good.

>> remember, we're talking about kids that already have adhd or behavioral problems. more research is needed here and it will issue new findings about food dyes at the beginning of next year. if you want to check out her petition and maybe even join it there's a link on today show.com.

>> you have gotten the attention of a lot of parents.