An American consumer advocacy group wants the United States Food and Drug Administration to ban the use of artificial colourings in food because they are linked to hyperactivity in children.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest cited studies that found that artificial dyes exacerbated behavioural problems in children. The Center is asking the FDA to ban the use of eight colourings: Yellow 5, Red 40, Blue 1, Blue 2, Green 3, Orange B, Red 3 and Yellow 6.

Health Canada permits the use of these colourings in foods, except for Orange B. However, Health Canada is currently assessing if certain children are susceptible to the potential health effects caused by food additives, according to spokesperson Philippe Laroche.

As well, Health Canada is studying exactly how food additives might cause hyperactivity and other behavioural problems.

Recent British research cited by both Health Canada and consumer advocates showed a small increase in hyperactivity in children who consumed a combination of food colourings over a week-long period.

However, the FDA maintains that food colouring is safe for kids to consume.

Rosie Schwartz, a registered dietitian, said that children won't miss much if they cut out foods loaded with colouring.

"The foods that contain a lot of colour are foods that aren't providing a lot of nutrition for kids, so I think it's probably not a great idea to include them on a regular basis."

Food colouring is commonly added to many foods, especially cereal, candy and other sugary snacks, to make them look more appealing.

In Canada, current regulations require that food labels indicate the presence of a food colour, but the specific colour does not have to be named.

However, "Health Canada is working on a new initiative to change labelling requirements in order to provide more specific information in plain language," said Laroche.

"This would allow Canadians to identify and avoid, if desired, foods containing certain colours."

However, Michael Jacobson of the Center for Science in the Public Interest said that changing food labels will not solve the problem of the dyes' potential health effects.

"The appropriate response is to get the dyes out of the food supply," Jacobson said.

This movement is well underway in Europe. The Food Standards Agency in the United Kingdom is asking food producers across Europe to remove colourings from their foods. As well, the British government has been lobbying food manufacturers to voluntarily remove food colourings from their products.

Based on a report by CTV medical specialist Avis Favaro and producer Elizabeth St. Philip.