What do pickles, BBQ sauce, and Hawaiian Punch have in common?
Yes, they all belong at a summer BBQ, but there is something else. These common foods frequently contain an ingredient called Red 40. This ingredient can be found in almost anything ranging from dairy products to baked goods, to popular candies, and fruity drinks. And crazy things you wouldn’t suspect like pickles, salad dressing, and cheese. In fact, it’s one of the most common food dyes in the US and has been a topic of controversy in the food world for over 30 years.
But let’s back up a second, what is RED 40 anyway?
Red 40 is a chemical compound that comes from coal tars, which is a thick dark liquid that comes from coal. Dyes made from coal tars are created by mixing various fragrant smelling hydrocarbons like benzyne and toluene. Back in the day (think: ancient Egyptians) dye was made from things found in nature, like flowers, leaves, roots, etc. Over time, however, scientists have learned how to create these colors in the lab - this is where dyes like Red 40, Orange 1, and Yellow 5 made their debut.
Manufacturers usually add dye to add color to enhance food colors and to add color to colorless foods. The FDA regulates the color additive to ensure that they are safe for human consumption. To determine the approval of an additive, the FDA studies the composition of it and how much is consumed and notes any health effects and safety factors that need to be observed. Once the food dye is approved, the FDA determines an appropriate level of use for that additive. The FDA only allows an additive to be approved if there is a reasonable certainty of no harm to consumers.
Today, there are only seven artificial food dyes left on the FDA’s approved list, and Red 40 is one of them. Almost every 10 years, a new dye is taken off of the list because of its negative side effects. Orange #1 was removed from the approved list in the 50’s, in the 70’s Red #2 was shown to cause cancerous tumors in rats, and just recently Yellow #5 has been investigated for causing migraines, anxiety, and even cancer.
Will Red 40 be the next food dye removed from the list?
When it comes to RED 40, research has shown a link between Red 40 and hyperactivity in kids. Most studies of Red 40 have been done on mice, and Red 40 did quite a number on the little guys. But this does not prove that RED 40 is bad for humans. The fundamental problem is that good research studies about food dyes are very hard to do.
What is the Bottom Line: should you ingest RED 40 or should you not?
The FDA stands firm that although food dyes may not be the best ingredient on the planet, they believe there’s nothing concrete enough to prove that Red 40 is inherently harmful to the general population. Ultimately, it’s up to you, the consumer, to decide.
The best chance of avoiding Red 40 is to avoid foods that have artificial coloring or dyes. Reading food labels is always a smart and proactive way to make sure you know exactly what is going into your body, and the bodies of your family members.
Another easy way to avoid Red 40 is to buy fresh, unprocessed food that doesn’t come in a box or bag. Or, if something has to be colored, be sure to look for natural colors that come from ingredients like beets, turmeric, and purple sweet potatoes.
Avoiding artificial dyes and colors is a great way to live a clean, sustainable life. Thanks for coming along on my little rant about RED 40. I hope you enjoyed this video, and I’ll see you next week.
Thanks for reading! Have a beautiful day.
Take care of yourself <3
- Is Red Dye 40 Toxic? https://www.healthline.com/health/food-nutrition/is-red-dye-40-toxic
- Food Dye and ADHD: https://www.webmd.com/add-adhd/childhood-adhd/food-dye-adhd#1
- Is Red 40 Food Coloring Dangerous to Your Health?: https://www.livestrong.com/article/445428-is-red-40-food-coloring-dangerous-to-your-health/
- Red 40 Side Effects: https://www.integrativenutrition.com/blog/2016/09/red-40-side-effects
Children MD Mom Docs
- Does Red Food Dye Cause ADHD or Hyperactivity?: https://childrensmd.org/browse-by-age-group/toddler-pre-school/does-red-food-dye-cause-adhd-or-hyperactivity/