More than 30 years ago, the Food and Drug Administration told the cosmetics industry that it would no longer use an artificial color called FD&C Red No. 3, also known as Red Dye No. 3 and Red Dye 3. This is because high doses have been found to cause cancer in animals.
At the time, however, the same ingredient remained approved for use in food, as it had been since 1907. And it's still allowed. It is used in thousands of food products, including candies and drinks, as well as medicines that children and adults sometimes use on a daily basis.
Last month, the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), a nutrition and health watchdog group, sent out aPetition to the FDAurges the agency to launch Red Dye No. 3 in food, nutritional supplements and medicines taken. Consumer Reports signed it, along with 20 other interest groups and three individuals.
Here's some info on this dangerous dye, and the strange reason we're still seeing Red Dye No. 3.
What is Red Dye #3 and why is it a concern?
Erythosine, which you'll see in some ingredient lists, such as "FD&C Red No. 3," is a synthetic dye made from petroleum that gives food and beverages a bright cherry red color. For decades, the FDA has been aware of various studies showing that it can cause cancer in animals. When laboratory rats were given high doses of the dye for long periods of time, they developed tumors on their thyroid glands, the studies found.
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The International Association of Color Manufacturers (IACM), an industry group, states that Red Dye No. 3 is safe at levels normally consumed by humans and that human studies are more relevant than studies in laboratory rats (such as which led the FDA to ban it in cosmetics). The group said the findings link the dye to behavior problems.are "based on insufficient evidence".In an email to CR, Meredith Huddle, IACM director of communications, also said that aStudy since 1987found that even high doses of red dye No. 3 "have no effect" in humans because it is "poorly absorbed."
But much research suggests otherwise. For example, several studies have shown thatput some artificial coloring, including red dye No. 3, to hyperactivity and other neurobehavioral effects in children.double blind studiescontrol their diet for weeks at a time, first without artificial colors and then with them, in different doses. Not all children were markedly affected, but those who appeared to be more sensitive to the dyes showed more inattention, hyperactivity, and restlessness at even a small amount, just 1 mg per day, than when they were on a diet without dyes.
What foods and medicines contain red dye #3?
A lot! According to a search of the Environmental Working Group's food database, there aremore than 2,900 foods that contain it. It is found in many artificially flavored and colored candies, and in some jelly beans, mints, and candy corn. Watch out for this, especially on Valentine's Day; it could be an ingredient in those iconic heart candies made by Spangler, Brach's, and other companies.
And it's in many other foods and drinks, too. Some of the things in it may not be surprising, like Nesquik, Pediasure, Verify, and Yoo-hoo strawberry flavors. But there are others you might not expect, like Cherries in Dole Fruit Cups, Vigo Saffron Rice, Sage Onion Rings, and Morningstar Farms Vegetarian Bacon.
It is also found in some medications and supplements, such as cough syrup and gummy vitamins. Ironically, given its potential link to inattention and hyperactivity in children, Red Dye No. 3 is an inactive ingredient in Vyvanse, a commonly prescribed medication for attention deficit disorder and hyperactivity disorder.
Who can be most affected by red dye #3?
Food safety experts and advocates say that while it likely poses risks for people of all ages, young children may be the most vulnerable. "Young children are most affected because of their low body weight and because they are exposed to many more of these dyes in food," said Tasha Stoiber, PhD, a senior scientist with the Environmental Working Group.
This is concerning because many of the foods and medicines that contain it are actively marketed and actively consumed by young children. AccordingFDA's own estimates, US children ages 2 to 5 consume twice as much Red Dye No. 3 as the general population based on body weight.
Stoiber lo diceeven small amounts of dye can build upand pose a risk to children. "It's not inconceivable that you could eat a few servings of something and still get the amount that has been shown to have effects in human studies," she says.
How can you and your family avoid red dye #3?
Here's some good news: The FDA requires manufacturers to use Red Dye No. 3 as an ingredient in onefood label. So when shopping for candy, you can always check the ingredients list for that color ("FD&C Red No. 3") to see which products to avoid. Sweets with bright colors and a fruity taste have it more often than other types.
It's also listed as "inactive ingredients" on a medicine bottle, or you can look for "dye-free" versions of some medicines.
Get the #3 red dye out of our food!
Over thereFDA Bans Carcinogenic Dyes in Food, Drugs, and Supplements, as it has done for cosmetics.
Why is red dye #3 allowed in food, but not in cosmetics?
The short answer: bureaucracy, it seems. As the recent FDA petition states, “There is no scientific or public health justification for using FD&C Red No. 3 in food while [the dye] is prohibited in externally applied cosmetics and drugs.
Rather, it is largely the result of complicated internal processes at the FDA. The list of dyes the agency allows in food, supplements, and ingested medications (such as pills and liquid medications) is separate from the list for applied cosmetics and medications (such as prescription lotions). This means that the FDA has had to make decisions about the safety of each type of use at different times.
The agency approved Red Dye No. 3 for use in foods and supplements before it was approved for use in cosmetics. When the FDA had to make a decision in 1990 about whether to approve it for use in cosmetics, the agency had enough evidence from scientific studies to show that it caused cancer in laboratory rats. For example, the FDA banned Red Dye No. 3 from all cosmetics. But at the time, the color was already on a permanently approved food list.
So what happened? The FDA at the time said it would "take steps" to ban it in food as well, but did not. When CR asked the agency to explain the 32-year inaction, officials did not immediately respond, instead writing: "The FDA evaluates and approves color additives for certain uses based on the most current science available in that moment. After our initial review, our scientists continue to review relevant new information to determine if there are any safety concerns and if the substance is no longer safe to use under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act."
"Regardless of why it took so long, it's absurd that it took so long," said Thomas Galligan, PhD, CSPI's chief scientist for supplements and food additives and one of the authors of the group's petition to the FDA. "In 32 years, there are millions and millions of children who have been exposed to this chemical that was not necessary."
Are other types of artificial colors in food and medicines bad for you too?
Red dye No. 3 takes center stagecurrent petition to the FDAbecause now there is a lot of evidence of its harm and because the FDA itself has already determined that it is carcinogenic. But food safety experts are also concerned about other artificial colors. Studies on the exposure of children toFD&C Red #40, FD&C Yellow #5, and FD&C Yellow #6(PDF), for example, showed similar neurobehavioral effects.
"In general, we recommend omitting all of these [artificial dyes], based on their impact on younger children," says the EWG's Stoiber.
What do food safety experts think should be done now?
OPetition to the FDAurges agency to release Red Dye No. 3 from the list of approved ingredients. Asked to comment on how the agency might respond, a spokesperson said the agency does not comment on pending petitions.
Food safety experts and advocates say they are simply reviving a finding the agency itself made long ago about this ingredient.
“This petition asks you to finally do what you said you would do 32 years ago and ban Red 3 in food, medicine and supplements,” says Galligan. "From our point of view, this is a very open and shut case."
Lauren Kirchner is an investigative reporter on the Consumer Reports Special Projects team. She has been with CR since 2022 and is involved in product safety. She has previously reported on algorithmic bias, criminal justice, and housing for Markup and ProPublica, and she was a finalist for the 2017 Pulitzer Prize for Explanatory Reporting.firstname.lastname@example.org follow her on Twitter@lkirchner.
The International Association of Color Manufacturers (IACM), an industry group, maintains that Red Dye No. 3 is safe at the levels that people typically consume, and that human studies are more relevant than lab-rat studies (like the ones that led the FDA to ban it in cosmetics).Is red 3 still used in food? ›
Decades ago the Food and Drug Administration banned Red No. 3 dye from all cosmetics after studies showed it caused cancer in lab animals. Yet the dye is still lurking in thousands of varieties of candies, cakes, beverages, and even medicine.Is red #3 banned in cosmetics? ›
“Red Dye #3 has been linked to cancer in animals and the FDA has prohibited its use in cosmetics and externally applied drugs, yet it is still used in many of the foods we eat,” said Lauren Kirchner of Consumer Reports.Why are food dyes still legal? ›
They have been banned in many European countries but legal in the U.S. FOOD and PHARMACEUTICAL INDUSTRY since the artificial coloring better entice consumers to ultimately drive a profit, even at the expense of the public's health. Common Foods Which Often Contain Artificial Coloring are: Jellies. Puddings.Why is red dye #3 bad for you? ›
Red 3 causes cancer in animals, and there is evidence that several other dyes also are carcinogenic. Three dyes (Red 40, Yellow 5, and Yellow 6) have been found to be contaminated with benzidine or other carcinogens. At least four dyes (Blue 1, Red 40, Yellow 5, and Yellow 6) cause hypersensitivity reactions.What foods have red #3 food dye? ›
A search of the Environmental Working Group's Eat Well Guide returns nearly 3,000 products that use red dye No. 3 as an ingredient, including popular candies such as Skittles, Nerds candies and Trolli gummies; protein shakes; instant rice and potato products; and boxed cake mixes.What common foods have red 3? ›
Found in many cakes and candies, the Red No. 3 dye is used to give maraschino cherries their signature ruby red colouring. Sausage casings, canned fruit and many oral medications are also known to contain this dye.What is red #3 made of? ›
Red dye 3 is synthetic food coloring made from petroleum. The substance is commonly used to give foods and drinks a bright, cherry-red color. According to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), red dye 3 is present in over 2,900 food products.What brands have red 3? ›
Besides showing up in Pez and Peeps, Red 3 is used in some varieties of Betty Crocker's Fruit by the Foot, Dubble Bubble chewing gum, Entenmann's Little Bites, and Hostess' Ding Dongs. Albertson's, Kroger, Meijer's, Target, and Walmart all use Red 3 in some of their house-brand products.What is the difference between red dye 40 and red dye 3? ›
Red No. 3 (Erythrosine): A cherry-red coloring commonly used in candy, popsicles and cake-decorating gels. Red No. 40 (Allura Red): A dark red dye that is used in sports drinks, candy, condiments and cereals.
Coffee-mate, RITZ Crackers and those warm, buttery Pillsbury biscuits, are all banned in Switzerland, Austria, Hungary, Iceland, Norway and Denmark because of trans fats like partially hydrogenated soybean and cottonseed oils.Why isn t red 3 banned? ›
The International Association of Color Manufacturers (IACM), an industry group, maintains that Red Dye No. 3 is safe at the levels that people typically consume, and that human studies are more relevant than lab-rat studies (like the ones that led the FDA to ban it in cosmetics).What candy has red dye 3? ›
And, in case you're wondering whether Red Dye 3 will be in your Easter candy this year, Consumer Reports says the additive is also found in purple and pink Peeps. According to Consumer Reports, Just Born products that contain Red Dye 3 include: Peeps Pink Marshmallow Chicks and Bunnies.Is red dye #3 safe? ›
there are nearly 3,000 food products that contain Red Dye No. 3. In addition to the potential cancer risk, some studies also have raised concerns that artificial food dyes, including Red Dye No. 3, contribute to neurobehavioral problems in children, such as hyperactivity.Is red dye #3 banned in the US? ›
Red dye No. 3 has been banned from cosmetics and select uses in the U.S. since 1990, but it's still commonly found in food.Is red dye #3 banned by the FDA? ›
CSPI and other groups behind the petition say studies have shown there is convincing evidence that Red No. 3 is carcinogenic. Based on studies done on animals in the 1970s and 1980s, FDA banned uses of the dye in cosmetics and externally applied drugs in 1990. In Europe, it can only be used for certain cherries.What is another name for red 3? ›
Erythrosine, also known as Red No. 3, is an organoiodine compound, specifically a derivative of fluorone.Does Coca Cola have red dye 40 in it? ›
Soft drinks – Sprite, Coke, Diet Coke, Mountain Dew; no red or purple dyes. Gatorade – No red or purple dyes. Any clear drinks – water, lemonade, etc.What is the safest red food dye? ›
Red no. 40 is a synthetic dye that's used in a variety of foods. It's one of nine synthetic dyes that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved for human consumption. It's also currently approved by the European Food and Safety Authority (EFSA).What is a natural alternative for red 3? ›
RED Colors natural alternatives for artificial Red #40 and Red #3: anthocyanins, such as black/purple carrot, elderberry, and purple sweet potato, in addition to beet, carmine/cochineal, and specialty blends.
Yellow foods: Avocado, salmon, chicken, turkey, beans, tofu, whole eggs, tempeh, lean ground beef, black beans, chickpeas, low-fat dairy, edamame, lentils, plantains.Why was Red 3 never made? ›
Red 3 was likely shelved following the mediocre critical and financial reception of part two, but in 2015 it was confirmed the Hoeber brothers were instead developing a Red TV show at NBC.Does red dye 3 contain iodine? ›
Erythrosine (FD&C red no. 3) is one the best characterized chemicals that acts as a 5′-deiodinase inhibitor and results in perturbations of thyroid function. It is a tetraiodinated derivative of fluorescein, with iodine accounting for ~58% of the molecular weight.Where is red 3 found? ›
3 (erythrosine) in your food item. This food dye can be found in things like candy and popsicles, according to Healthline, while Science Direct notes it's also used in pastries and breakfast cereals.What medicines contain red dye 3? ›
- Acetaminophen and Diphenhydramine Hydrochloride 500 mg / 25 mg.
- Acetaminophen, Butalbital, Caffeine and Codeine Phosphate 325mg / 50mg / 40mg / 30mg.
- Acyclovir 200 mg.
- Amlodipine Besylate and Benazepril Hydrochloride 10 mg / 20 mg.
- Amoxicillin 250 mg.
- Atazanavir Sulfate 100 mg.
In 1990, the Food and Drug Administration banned the use of red dye No. 3 — also known as erythrosine or FD&C Red No. 3 — in cosmetics and externally applied drugs, based on its analysis of unpublished animal research suggesting a link to thyroid cancer.Do red M&Ms have red 40? ›
Eventually, the company relented and reintroduced the red candies, this time dyed with Red No. 40, except in Europe, where this dye is not allowed. There the candies are dyed with carmine, extracted from the crushed bodies of female cochineal bugs that live on prickly pear cacti.Do Cheerios have red dye 40? ›
As you would expect, the more colorful the cereal, the more food dyes it usually contains. Cap'n Crunch, Fruit Loops, Lucky Charms, and Apple Jacks are full of food coloring. Look for breakfast cereals that are free of dyes — like Cheerios, which doesn't contain artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives.Does Oreos have red dye? ›
Nabisco's seasonal Winter Oreos, which have a red filling, have 31 mg of Red 40 per serving.Why are frosted flakes banned? ›
Frosted Flakes, Honey Bunches of Oats, and Rice Krispies
These popular breakfast cereals contain BHT, a flavor enhancer, which has long been studied for its potential carcinogenic properties; the evidence is inconclusive. It is banned in Japan and the European Union.
Drumstick ice cream
The ice cream truck treat with the generous extra helping of chocolate within its cone contains a sneaky ingredient prohibited by the European Union, reports Stacker. Drumsticks contain carrageenan, which can negatively affect the digestive system.
Look for crackers made from mostly or all seeds—think flax, sunflower, pumpkin, and more. “These supply healthy fats, fiber, and protein,” Keating says. They also tend to be gluten-free. Look for crackers made with whole grains, or grain-free seed-only products like the Top Seedz below.Is red #3 banned in Canada? ›
Under Canadian legislation, cosmetics that contain substances that are harmful to the user cannot be sold. Pigment Red 3 is subject to the Significant New Activity (SNAc) provisions of CEPA 1999.What foods have titanium dioxide? ›
- Coffee creamer.
- Salad dressing.
- Candy and sweets.
- Chewing gum.
The red food dye can be found in thousands of products, including fruit cups, ice cream and yogurt.Do M&Ms have red dye 3? ›
M&M's are colored with Red 40, an artificial food dye approved by the Federal Drug Administration.Are Twizzlers made with red dye? ›
These little candy ropes are an unexpected source of wheat gluten for those with celiac disease or wheat allergies. They also contain Red 40, a common food dye derived from petroleum.Do Twizzlers have red dye? ›
The red dye is used in cereals, beverages, gelatins, puddings, dairy products and candy, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Brands that use Red Dye 40 include Skittles, Doritos and Twizzlers. All food color additives, including Red Dye 40, require FDA approval.What is the most unhealthy dye? ›
Multiple studies have found Yellow 5 to cause hives and asthma symptoms. The three dyes most consumed–Red 40, Yellow 5 and Yellow 6–are the dyes most likely to cause systemic allergic reactions. These same dyes also contain the cancer-causing contaminants Benzidine, 4-aminobiphenyl and 4-aminoazobenzene.What food dyes should you avoid? ›
Commonly used food dyes, such as Yellow 5, Yellow 6, and Red 40, pose risks including behavioral problems and hyperactivity in some children. Some dyes also pose a risk of cancer (like Red 3) and allergic reactions (like Yellow 5, Yellow 6, Red 40, Blue 1).
In general, however, it is believed that food dyes are typically excreted from the body within 24-48 hours.What candy has titanium dioxide in it? ›
Titanium dioxide gives some types of candy their smooth texture and bright color. It's used in Skittles, Starburst, Sour Patch Kids, Swedish Fish and Trolli gummies.What country is red dye banned? ›
Red 40. Red 40, also known as Allura Red, is one of the most commonly used flavoring agents in the United States. However, red 40 is banned in the United Kingdom and Switzerland due to health concerns.Is titanium dioxide safe in food? ›
To date, titanium dioxide is considered safe for consumption. Most research concludes that the amount consumed from food is so low that it poses no risk to human health ( 1 , 3 , 7 , 17 ).Is red dye banned in Europe? ›
Red 40, Yellow 6, Yellow 5 food dyes
The colors are not banned outright in the EU, nor are they banned in the US. But unlike in the US, European authorities must include a warning label that details the risks associated with the dyes.
There's a chance that the radiantly enticing red color was achieved by using Red No. 3 (erythrosine) in your food item. This food dye can be found in things like candy and popsicles, according to Healthline, while Science Direct notes it's also used in pastries and breakfast cereals.Which red dye is banned in the US? ›
In 1990, the Food and Drug Administration banned the use of red dye No. 3 — also known as erythrosine or FD&C Red No. 3 — in cosmetics and externally applied drugs, based on its analysis of unpublished animal research suggesting a link to thyroid cancer.Is red 3 and Red 40 the same? ›
In the US, Red 3 has mostly been replaced by Red 40, but it is still used in Maraschino cherries, candies and popsicles.What is the chemical name for red dye #3? ›
Erythrosine, also known as Red No. 3, is an organoiodine compound, specifically a derivative of fluorone. It is a pink dye which is primarily used for food coloring. It is the disodium salt of 2,4,5,7-tetraiodofluorescein.Is red dye #3 FDA approved? ›
By the time the FDA had to make a decision about whether to permanently approve its use in cosmetics, in 1990, the agency had enough evidence from scientific studies to show that it caused cancer in lab rats. So the FDA then banned Red Dye No. 3 from all cosmetics.
Red no. 40 is a synthetic dye that's used in a variety of foods. It's one of nine synthetic dyes that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved for human consumption. It's also currently approved by the European Food and Safety Authority (EFSA).Do M&Ms have red dye 40? ›
M&M's are colored with Red 40, an artificial food dye approved by the Federal Drug Administration.When was red 3 banned? ›
Red dye No. 3 has been banned from cosmetics and select uses in the U.S. since 1990, but it's still commonly found in food.Is there red dye in Advil? ›
Examples of inactive ingredients contained in ibuprofen include fillers (such as silicon dioxide, corn starch, or lactose), dyes or colorings (such as FD&C Blue#2, FD&C Red#40, or FD&C Yellow#6), preservatives (such as polyethylene glycol), flavors (such as sucrose), and disintegrating agents (such as sodium starch ...