The Food and Drug Administration have approved a total of nine food dyes that U.S manufacturers can use to enhance the color of foods. Red No. 40 and Red No. 3 represent two of the nine approved artificial food dyes, and are widely used in food manufacturing, particularly in processed foods. Some research suggests there may be potential health concerns regarding food dyes, but so far the evidence is inconclusive.
Baked Goods and Candy
Baked goods and candies are colored red to mimic fruits such as strawberry, cherry and raspberry. However, foods don't necessarily have to be red in color to contain red coloring. A combination of red and yellow coloring are commonly used to give a golden color to some baked goods. Everything from pie filling and cake frosting, to cake mix and even certain breads can contain red coloring. All sorts of candies, fruit snacks and even chocolate candy or candy that isn't red can contain red coloring.
Breakfast Cereals and Dairy
Breakfast cereals commonly contain red dye. It's typically found in sugary cereals that appeal to children, with the coloring helping mimic fruit flavors. Red dyes are also found in these foods that are not red. For example red dye is used in combination with yellow food coloring to give peanut butter-flavored food a golden color. You can also find red dye in dairy products, such as strawberry and raspberry milk, ice cream and yogurt.
Beverages and Snacks
The use of red coloring in beverages is common place. Flavored drink mixes and various flavors of soda contain red dye. It's found mostly in berry flavored sodas, but can be found in certain orange sodas as well. You can also find red dye in drinks marketed as healthy, such as sports drinks and nutritional shakes. Additionally, certain ice teas contain red dye. You can find red dye in a variety of snack foods -- everything from potato chips and cookies, to breakfast bars and gelatin.
Potential Health Concerns
Researchers from the University of California in Los Angeles reviewed existing studies to determine potential health concerns related to food dyes. They reviewed evidence that Red No. 3 acted as a carcinogen, or cancer-causing chemical, in animal research. They also found evidence that some people are sensitive to food dyes such as Red No. 40 and may experience a variety of reactions such as rash and difficulty concentrating. The authors recommend well-designed, independent toxicology testing on food dyes.
Avoiding Food Coloring
Food labels are your best friend when it comes to avoiding food dyes such as Red 40. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration requires manufacturers to list additives such as food dyes on the label. Even unexpected foods such as pizza may contain red dye, so it's necessary to scan the labels of everything you purchase. This includes foods marketed as healthy such as fiber bars and oatmeal with fruit.