The Real Truth on Red Food Dye

Are There Insects in Your Red Foods?

For many years the scientific community has expressed concerns about the common additives and preservatives used in commercially prepared foods. One ingredient gaining national attention is red food dye dangers and what comes of consuming it.

If you are eating a “red” food—whether it is cereal, gelatin, candy or a beverage—check the label for cochineal or carmine extract. If it is listed on your label…there are bugs in it…and you’ve likely been eating them for years. They are also found in many hair products, soaps and cosmetics; lipstick is a product that regularly uses cochineal. red food dye dangers

Dactylopius coccus—a type of beetle found in Central and South America—is considered a “natural” source for red food dye.

Used as a fabric dye in the 15th century, it was one of the first products exported to other continents during the Colonial period. In fact, during the Revolutionary War the British soldiers wore jackets dyed with cochineal.

One pound of extract contains 70,000 insects that have been dried and ground into a fine powder. They have no smell or flavor. The only purpose in adding them to food is for appearance.

Cochineal is not acceptable to either a Kosher or vegan diet. Even java giant Starbucks™ was using these beetles in place of “artificial” food coloring to color four food products and two beverages.

The backlash from their vegan consumers was considerable and they moved to a tomato-based colorant later that year.

Using Bugs in Food – Is it Legal?

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) allows trace amounts of bug parts—and other rather disgusting things—in mass-produced foods. The FDA explains that there is no “cost effective” way to ensure that every product is 100% free of contaminants.

What About Artificial Food Coloring?

When questioned about their artificial food coloring, food manufacturers point to piles of research, as well the stamp of approval from the FDA. This artificial food dye is used in everything from jams and chips to salad dressings and applesauce.

Children are the primary demographic for “brightly colored” foods.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) points out that food dyes have zero nutritional value and should be banned from use in consumable goods. More than 15 million tons of artificial food coloring is used in food manufacturing every year in the United States.

Many countries already have bans and labeling warnings in place. Europe is looking to phase out all artificial food dyes.

CSPI is calling for the FDA to step in due to the drastic increase in brightly colored foods marketed to children. Researchers have linked food coloring to allergies, learning problems, hyperactivity and mood disorders in children.

Food dye dangers have been a source of controversy for decades. Red 3 is considered a carcinogen by the FDA yet is still used in mass food production. Columbia University Medical Center found that compounds in food dyes cause cancer.

Artificial Food Dye Dangers

  • Red 2carcinogenic; increases bladder tumor risk; found on Florida oranges.
  • Red 3thyroid carcinogen; banned from external use products; found in maraschino cherries, sausage and candy among others.
  • Red 40 – most common food dye; linked to allergies and ADHD in children; found in candy, cereal, desserts, drugs and cosmetics among others.
  • Yellow 5 – currently undergoing testing; linked to behavioral problems in children; found in beverages, candy, cereal, gelatin, pharmaceuticals and cosmetics among others.
  • Yellow 6 – currently undergoing testing; suspected of causing adrenal tumors and hypersensitivity; found in baked goods, cereal, candy, gelatin and cosmetics among others.
  • Blue 1 – currently undergoing testing; suspected of causing kidney tumors; found in beverages, candy, cereal and pharmaceuticals.
  • Blue 2 – currently undergoing testing; suspected of increasing tumor risk – especially of the brain; found in beverages, candy, pet food and pharmaceuticals.
  • Green 3 – currently undergoing testing; suspected of causing tumors of the bladder and testes; found in personal care products, ice cream, beverages, lipstick and other cosmetics.

Meanwhile, 100% organic companies around the world are already using alternatives. The issue comes down to profit. Artificial dyes are far cheaper than organic alternatives.

Southampton University published a study that found that food dye negatively affects all children, whether they have food color sensitivity or whether they have been diagnosed with a hyperactivity disorder.

Lead author, Professor John Warner, wondered why we need colored food. “We are not now just talking about a population of children with a particular problem, we are saying there’s a potential for this to be an effect on all children. And, if that really is the case, then food coloring should be removed.”

To avoid red food dye dangers, read the labels! There are many alternative choices to brightly colored foods. Before the modern era of chemical food, we used organic dyes such as beets and saffron with zero negative side effects.

More expensive choices…but far better for our health and that of our children.

Food Dye Dangers Infographic