Snacks near schools have dubious dyes

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Snacks near schools have dubious dyes

The Green Food Zone is the 200-meter (656-foot) buffer zone around schools in which only healthy food is supposed to be available to growing kids.

The Korea Consumer Agency did an inspection of 30 elementary schools in metropolitan areas. They found cookies using dyes made from coal tar and chewing gum that used a dye prohibited in children’s food.

The Green Food Zone is the food safety area within 200 meters of elementary, middle and high schools meant to protect children from unsanitary food and promote a safe eating environment. It’s an initiative passed into law in 2009.

The Korea Consumer Agency said yesterday that it detected food coloring made from coal tar in 73 candies and confectioneries out of 100 food items it tested from 30 such zones.

Restrictions on such dyes have been raised worldwide as they are believed to affect children’s behavior and attention span and contribute to attention deficit disorder.

Reportedly, dyes made from coal tar are even more harmful when more than one type is used in a food. According to the Korea Consumer Agency, it found 53 food items that used more than two such dyes.

In the EU, when a food item contains two such dyes, it must have a warning that it could have adverse effects on children’s behavior and attentiveness.

“As the controversy over the safety of such dyes continues, and some people say they could even cause attention deficit hyperactivity disorder in children, it is urgent to take measures to ban the use of coal tar food coloring in food items for children,” said a KCA official.

In addition, three out of 15 chewing gums contained red dye #102, which has been prohibited in children’s food since 2010.

However, because chewing gum is not specified as a child’s food, there is no way to enforce the regulations.

In addition, four items contained double the amount of yellow dye #5 and red dye #102 allowed by the European Union.

Furthermore, 44.7 percent of the foods in the Green Food Zone were found to have high calories and low nutrition. Only 4 percent of the stores surveyed did not sell high-calorie, low-nutrition foods.

The agency also found that the number of staff dedicated to managing stores in the Green Food Zones decreased by 27.8 percent compared to that of 2009, when the law to establish them was enacted.


BY KIM JUNG-YOON [kjy@joongang.co.kr]
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