More than 114,000 supporters have joined a Jamestown family on its campaign against petroleum-based artificial food dyes.
After discovering that her son's diet may have been linked to his bad behavior, Renee Shutters created a petition asking Mars Inc. to stop using artificial food dyes in its products. That petition, hosted via www.change.org and co-signed by the Center For Science In The Public Interest, is nearly at its 150,000-signature goal.
In March of 2011, Mrs. Shutters testified at a Food and Drug Administration hearing about her son Trenton's success with the Feingold diet, and her desire to see dyes already banned by European Food Safety Authority, or that require a warning declaration on the label, to be replaced by naturally sourced color additives. The attempt was unsuccessful, but as a result of her campaign, Mrs. Shutters has been written about by National Public Radio, The New York Times and most recently had an appearance on NBC New's "TODAY" show.
Renee Shutters is pictured with her son Trenton inside their pantry at home in Jamestown. The pantry is loaded with all-natural and organic food acquired from stores such as Wegmans, ALDI and Trader Joe’s. Mrs. Shutters decided to take a more natural approach to her son’s diet after discovering that artificial food dyes may have been contributing to Trenton’s hyperactivity.
P-J photo by Dusten Rader
"My first plan was to work with the FDA to get a ban - they've already banned them in Europe - so why shouldn't our government follow?" Mrs. Shutters said. "We lost by one vote, so we thought about how else we could pressure manufacturers to make a change themselves. M&M's are the No. 1 dye candy in the United States, and that's why they were chosen (for the petition)."
According to Mrs. Shutters, although her attempt with the Food and Drug Administration was unsuccessful, her experience prompted her to focus on educating others via workshops. To this day she has helped more than 1,000 families, she said.
"There are families falling to pieces across our country that don't even realize why," Mrs. Shutters said. "So, maybe we can get consumers educated to pressure the companies to change. (Petroleum-based artificial food dyes) are considered neurotoxic, and are made from crude oil - the same thing as our gas. The same thing that's used to dye carpets and jeans is in our food ... When you start your day off with blue toothpaste, a toaster pastry and strawberry milk, then go into lunchtime with chicken nuggets that have yellow 5 or 6 in their batter, you start looking at a whole day of dyes in mainstream eating. ... This isn't about money, this is about trying to save a child."
To sign the petition, visit www.change.org/MMsDyes.
After discovering that artificial food dyes may have been contributing to Trenton's hyperactivity, Mrs. Shutters began to strive for a natural approach to her son's diet.
In order to test the effect of certain ingredients on Trenton's behavior, she employed a food elimination diet developed by Ben F. Feingold, MD, called the Feingold diet.
"The Feingold diet gives you the ability to have a good grocery list," Mrs. Shutters said. "I can look up fast food, and I can see what I can eat at Wendy's, McDonald's, Cold Stone Creamery or Subway. There's all sorts of regular food you can still have that the Feingold Association has researched. A lot of times there are hidden chemicals in certain foods that aren't disclosed, so Feingold researches it and provides guides. We have everything you could possibly imagine - you don't go without anything - it's not like this was ever about deprivation."
The diet eliminates sources of artificial colors, flavors, sweeteners, preservatives and salicylates. According to Mrs. Shutters, the diet has had a dramatic impact on Trenton, who was having trouble in school, at sports practice and at home with tasks and sleeping.
"It wasn't pretty, Trenton was depressed and angry - if he didn't get a tricycle it was a total meltdown," Mrs. Shutters said. "Then after two days without dyes if he didn't get a tricycle he'd say, 'Oh well, maybe next time it will be my turn.'"
Trenton, who is a 9-year-old with a bit of a sweet tooth, used to love having some M&M's, Starburst or Skittles before he started the Feingold diet. Although he sometimes misses that candy, he and his mother have found alternatives acquired from stores such as Wegmans, ALDI and Trader Joe's that he feels a lot better about eating, he said.
"Back then I felt really bad - I felt like I was dying everyday," Trenton said. "I actually wanted to switch, so I did and I feel good. My favorite candy now is salt-water taffy from Trader Joe's. I don't feel like I had to lose anything - there's stuff that is even better."
PAYING IT FORWARD
When asked about where to start with the Feingold diet, Mrs. Shutters recommends people should read the "Feingold Bluebook," which is called "Behavior, Learning And Health: The Dietary Connection." Those interested in learning more about the Feingold diet, may visit www.feingold.org. Groups are also available on Facebook and Yahoo by searching for "Feingold Jamestown."
Mrs. Shutters will also host a workshop on the Feingold diet on Wednesday, Dec. 18, at the James Prendergast Library, 509 Cherry St. in Jamestown. According to Tamara McIntyre, family literacy librarian, the event will not focus on the campaign because the library strives to remain neutral, but rather intends to inform people of the community about the diet.
"We think it's important for the diet information to be out there for parents," McIntyre said. "Anything that can help children we want to provide for our patrons."
The workshop is part of the library's parent education classes, which focus on topics such as nutrition, behavior, discipline, getting children ready to read, budgeting, ADHD and others. So, McIntyre thought the Feingold diet workshop would fit right in, she said.
"Some people I went to high school with have tried this with their children too - and it worked," McIntyre said.
To register for the workshop, call McIntyre at 484-7135, extension 253.