HUFFINGTON POST

This Week's HuffPost Family Dinner Download: Are Those Colors You're Eating Safe?

In her new cookbook, The Family Dinner, Laurie David talks about the importance of families making a ritual of sitting down to dinner together, and how family dinners offer a great opportunity for meaningful discussions about the day's news. "Dinner," she says, "is as much about digestible conversation as it is about delicious food."

We couldn't agree more. So HuffPost has joined with Laurie to launch a new feature we're calling HuffPost Family Dinner Downloads. Every Friday afternoon, just in time for dinner, our editors highlight one of the most compelling news stories of the week -- stories that will spark a lively discussion among the whole family.

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This week, a national conversation took place on the question of the artificial dyes found in so many of our foods -- particularly the ones marketed to kids -- and their potential health consequences, including hyperactivity and triggering allergies. After taking a hands-off approach for years to the growing inclusion of synthetic food dyes in an increasing number of processed foods, the federal government finally decided to look at the issue and determine whether the foods using them should carry warning labels like they do in Europe -- not unlike deadly cigarettes. In some countries food dyes are banned altogether.

Unfortunately, the FDA panel tasked with reviewing the issue in fact decided to do nothing, claiming that the evidence for behavioral issues was inconclusive, but as food expert Marion Nestle points out, a certain percentage of children may in fact react to food dyes, consistently. Regardless, it's indisputable that, "Food dyes have only one purpose: to sell junk foods." Nestle explains. "Candy, Cheetos, and sodas that are brightly colored are perceived as tasting better than the gray alternatives. The food industry needs food dyes badly."

What are some foods you've eaten recently that might have food dyes in them? Do you feel differently after eating them? Do you find yourself drawn to brightly colored foods, like M&Ms, mac & cheese, Skittles and Doritos? What are some foods that are vividly colored in their natural state? Do you think foods colored with artificial dyes should carry warning labels? What is artificial coloring anyways? (Here's a database to help you out.) Do you read the ingredient labels on packages?

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To see last week's Family Dinner Download, click here.

Subscribe to receive HuffPost Family Dinner Downloads by email every Friday afternoon.

For more tips and recipes, check out The Family Dinner: Great Ways to Connect with Your Kids, One Meal at a Time by Laurie David and Kirstin Uhrenholdt (thefamilydinnerbook.com).