Red Food Dye

In 2007 the EU required a label on foods containing synthetic food dyes that states the product “may have an adverse effect on activity and attention in children.” In 2011 in the U.S., however, the Food and Drug Administration held a Food Advisory Committee Meeting about certified color additives, and while they determined that more study is needed, labels alerting hyperactivity in children was unwarranted.

The current red artificial colorings permitted by the FDA in food are:

  • FD&C Red. 3 (organoiodine compound)
  • FD&C Red No. 40 (an Azo dye)
  • Citrus Red No. 2 (used rarely on oranges amid safety concerns)

What tests there are on how food dyes affect behavior seem to show that some children are genetically vulnerable to behavioral changes from dyes and that a smaller subset have very strong reactions.

Lets look at some of the different red food dyes.

Cochineal / Carmine / Crimson lake / natural red 4 / E120 which is a red food dye, is producd from bugs,  the extract is extracted from the cochineal, specifically the female, a species of insect.

Cochineal insect

Until 2009, cochineal was one of many dyes that fell under the umbrella term “natural color” on ingredients lists. But because cochineal provokes severe allergic reactions in some people, the Food and Drug Administration requires carmine and cochineal extract to be explicitly identified in ingredients lists.

Other synthetic red dyes such as Red No. 2 and Red No. 40, which carry far greater health risks, are derived from either coal or petroleum byproducts.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) released a 68-page report detailing the potential of artificial food dyes including all red dyes to contribute to hyperactivity in children, increase cancer risk and lead to other health problems. You can read the full PDF document here.

Some items that may contain red food dye:

  • Instant Oatmeal
  • Yogurt
  • Cereal
  • Cereal Bars
  • Jell-O
  • Candy
  • Cakes
  • Fruit Snacks
  • Freezies
  • Various drinks / Juices
  • Jams
  • Cereal Bars
  • Ice Cream
  • And many more

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DISCLAIMER: The information contained herein should NOT be used as a substitute for the advice of an appropriately qualified and licensed physician or other health care provider. The information provided here is for informational purposes only. This post may not cover all possible drug interactions or all FDA / WHO warnings or alerts. Please check with a physician if you have health questions or concerns about interactions or go to the FDA / WHO for a comprehensive list of  warnings. Although we attempt to provide accurate and up-to-date information, no guarantee is made to that effect.

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