January 12th, 2015

The Scary Truth About Red Dye No. 40

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The Scary Truth About Red Dye No. 40 Groovy Green Livin

I went to the movies with my 11 year old last night. Just the two of us. We went to one of our favorite movie theaters-where the seats reclined and the arm rests were incredibly wide and comfortable.

Before the movie started we waited in line for candy. When we reached the counter my son had a hard time deciding what to get. I tried really hard not to interject (although I was dying to tell him to skip all the candy!). Instead we ended up having a lengthy discussion about which candy was better for you. Seems like a strange conversation to have, but it brought up some real issues. He held up a box of chocolate covered raisins and Sour Patch Kids and we compared ingredients.

The Sour Patch Kids contained:

Sugar, corn syrup, modified corn starch, citric acid, tartaric acid, natural and artificial flavors, yellow 5, yellow 6, red dye no. 40, blue 1

Not much by way of real food in those little candies. When we checked the ingredient list on the chocolate covered raisins this is what we found: No artificial food dyes.

Dark Chocolate (Sugar, Chocolate, Cocoa Butter, Milkfat, Soy Lecithin, Nonfat Milk, Lactose, Artificial & Natural Flavors), Raisins, Sugar, Tapioca Dextrin, Confectioner’s Glaze (Lac-Resin), Alkalized Cocoa

The raisins won the “better for you” contest, although I’m not sure either one truly belongs in this category.

The Scary Truth About Red Dye No. 40

Red food Dye No. 40 was listed on almost every candy package we looked at. Turns out it’s the most commonly used dye in the United States. Red Dye No. 40 or FD&C Red Dye #40, is widely used in the foods and drugs that we consume on a daily basis. It’s been approved by the FDA for use in food products and must be listed as an ingredient on labels.

And it’s not only found in candy. Red Dye No. 40 can be found in soda, salad dressings, toothpaste, mouthwash, and even medicine (think about the lovely pink hue of your antibiotics).

According to the Center for Science in the Public Interest the Red 40 is made from petroleum and possesses a “rainbow of risks to children.” Those risks include hyperactivity in children, cancer (in animal studies), and allergic reactions.

Here’s the crazy part.

Many candy companies in the U.S. use artificial food coloring for the candy they sell and distribute in the United States, but that same candy sold in Europe gets its coloring from natural sources. Food and other products containing artificial food coloring and sold is Europe would have a warning label in that would say:  “May have an adverse effect on activity and attention in children.” We have no warning label in the US.

Red Dye No. 40 Dangers Groovy Green Livin

What continues to amaze me is that these companies are clearly able to remove dangerous artificial food dyes from their products and have done so in other countries, yet they’re not willing to remove them from products sold in America.

What does this say about how these companies value the lives of American children? Seems pretty apparent that they’re less concerned with health than they are with their bottom line.

What you can do about Red Dye No. 40

  • READ LABELS: In America all food labels must spell out which artificial food dyes are used in a product. If you see Red 40 listed (or any other color with a number after it) steer clear. Read your labels very carefully so you can make an educated decision about the food you buy. I think you’ll be amazed at how many times Red Dye No. 40 shows up on a label.
  • SUPPORT COMPANIES that don’t use artificial food dyes. Let your dollars do the talking!

Do you try to avoid Red Dye No. 40 or other artificial food dyes?


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photo credit: Special via photopin cc

31 Responses to “The Scary Truth About Red Dye No. 40”

  1. I love that you looked at the options with your son and let him decide. He’s turning into quite the educated consumer!
    Micaela @MindfulMomma recently posted..Health & Wellness Trends To Look For In 2015My Profile

  2. Not too long ago, I tried to eliminate purchasing products that contained artificial food coloring. When I stopped and looked at the labels I was amazed at the products that had coloring that I wouldn’t have guessed. Just because a food isn’t a bright/strange color, doesn’t mean it doesn’t have a fake dye in it. Gotta check all the labels! It’s still a work in progress in our house and I got much more relaxed over the holidays but this is a good reminder for me to get back on it. Thanks!

  3. I really don’t understand why we use artificial food coloring…I love sour patch kids and would prefer them to not have colors and/or be colored with natural food powders.

    Why are we so far being Europe and the EU?
    Krystyn @ Really, Are You Serious? recently posted..Snow Mountain with the bigs | Mommy and Me Monday | 256th edMy Profile

  4. I do for sure try to avoid all artificial food dyes. It is upsetting knowing that our government, I assume, caves to the petroleum industry – yet again – and bypasses the health of it’s citizens. Little by little, I’m trying to eradicate all damaging artificial additives from our diet

  5. I always check ingredients, and am often shocked by the foods I thought were ok that are actually filled with dyes and toxins. I don’t understand why the US allows these terrible things in our foods! Thanks for raising awareness, Lori.

  6. I am a habitual label reader due to food allergies and sensitivities in our home and really appreciate your educational post that is so important to the health and welfare of our kids!
    Leticia- Tech Savvy Mama recently posted..Shop. Donate. Learn. 3 Ways to Help Haiti 5 Years After the Earthquake #Bloggers4HaitiMy Profile

  7. It makes me SO annoyed that the same companies can offer the same product in a different country and it does not contain the same objectionable ingredients.
    Green Bean recently posted..How to Grow Sprouts in Your KitchenMy Profile

  8. Wow Lori I’ve been working on the food dye issue particular the reds like red 40 since December and I tell you it’s an insane situation. Right now I have no dyes in my pantry (artificial or otherwise) but my soon to be 10 year old is eager to eat like all of his friends so I fear this is a situation that’s going to change soon. Thanks for the perspective with your son. I will certainly bear that in mind 🙂

  9. I am always amazed at how we use dyes but other countries don’t. So much of what we eat is banned in other countries! I try and buy “better for you” options for my kids but it’s hard to find things that are completely good!

  10. I try to avoid this when I can but now that I have teens I have very little control over their diet!

  11. Wow, yet another example of safer products for the EU and crap here in the United States. What is this nonsense? I have been diving into dyes as it relates to cosmetics and it’s hairy. The effects are different for dermal and internal ingestion, and yet so many of the colors used in cosmetics are tainted with heavy metals. It seems like there are clearly safe and viable alternatives in the food space, already on the market. So why aren’t we using them? Thanks for the great info Lori.

  12. It amazes me that in the US they sell a different product than in Europe. Hyperactivity has been linked to dyes. Why am I not surprised since they seem to be in so many foods.
    Anna @Green Talk recently posted..How to Cook with Frozen Peppers from Summer HarvestMy Profile

  13. They’re in everything Anna. It’s mind boggling.

  14. Interesting Lindsay. I’m sure plenty of cosmetics contain artificial coloring. I’m curious, what have you found with regard to artificial dyes and the skin? I wish I could answer your question- I can’t imagine why companies aren’t phasing out artificial food dyes in the US. Could be a fabulous marketing strategy for a company who wanted to take the lead on this. I’m guessing it comes down to profit. So sad.

  15. NutriGrain Bars? Amazing. Thanks for making me aware of this. I definitely need to read more labels!

  16. red dye is so bad for children. Remember when I was very young there were no red m and m’s because of the awareness of red dye. My son recently has birthday cake at a party and it was VERY red. That night I had to take him to the hospital for the worst asthma attack ever… It came out of nowhere. Ever since I make sure nothing has red dye in it for him (and the rest of us)
    Leigh recently posted..8 Ways To Use Your Lemon PeelsMy Profile

  17. I’m starting to read labels even more closely and make more things at home from scratch.
    I need to find a version of gummy bears we can enjoy for movies and outings.

  18. […] have a choice. We decide what to foods to buy. We choose the products we clean with. We pick the health care and remedies that keeps us […]

  19. […] food coloring for the candy they sell and distribute in the United States, but that same candy sold in Europe gets its coloring from natural […]

  20. […] food coloring for the candy they sell and distribute in the United States, but that same candy sold in Europe gets its coloring from natural sources. Food and other products containing artificial food coloring and sold is Europe would have […]

  21. The naturelcandystore.com has organic candy and gummies that are GMO free, and free from dyes, artificial colors, Flavers & preservertives.

  22. You need to search what confectioners glaze is made from.
    Worse than red 40

  23. I have a raging sore throat and cold and just reached for a throat drop. Luden’s, wild cherry… and, guess what?!… Yep, that pesky red dye 40. I’m gonna opt for a hot toddy!

  24. Better choice, Kim! Red dye 40 is found is so many unexpected places. Great job reading the label!

  25. It all goes around with these big American companies. They put chemicals in the food to make you/your children ill. Then they sell you Adderal and SSRI’s to fix that….hmmm

  26. Although most dyes with numbers are bad, not all are. Red dye #4 is actually made from the cochineal bug. Although I would love to cut so many unnatural things out of my family’s diet, as a mom of 5 I have decided to compromise somewhere in the middle. My most recent shock is an ingredient in cinnamon toast crunch that can be used as a paint thinner and eats aluminum!

  27. OMG!! WOW. All of this leaving me speechless. And don’t forget about all the preservatives too! Thank everyone for the awareness!

  28. Red Dye No. 40 is scary stuff. Unfortunately, it’s in so many candies that my kids love to eat!

  29. Yes, my son used antibiotic with red dye and he was so agitated and acting very very strange.

  30. aspartame is another poison that is used in all gum and most products with an alternative sugar sugar free etc. do an article on this it eats holes in your brain and other horrible side effects.

  31. […] The Scary Truth About Red Dye No. 40 […]

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About Lori

Hi! I’m Lori, a recovering attorney, writer, and mom to three boys. Join me as I uncover and share the latest info on healthy living. Learn more.

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