Foods & Beverages That Contain Red Dye 40

Girl (7-9) eating hotdog, two girls (9-12) queuing in background
Red dye 40 is an artificial food coloring used to give various shades of red, pink and purple to processed food. (Image: Christopher Robbins/Digital Vision/Getty Images)

Color is an important part of eating. People learn to expect that a strawberry is red or that a pomegranate is pink. The color of food influences perceived the flavor of food; for example, red food coloring is added to strawberry candy, which would otherwise be colorless from the flavoring alone. Red dye 40 is an artificial food coloring used to give deep reds, pinks, and purple colors to various processed foods.

Is It Safe?

Numerous studies show that some synthetic food additives, including artificial colors like Red dye 40, can have learning, behavioral, or other health effects for some individuals. Likewise, other studies do not corroborate these results so the debate goes on. The U.S. Food & Drug Administration includes Red dye 40 on a list of food additives that are generally recognized as safe, which is also known as the GRAS list, and it is found in many foods and beverages -- from the cocktail bar to the candy store.

Beverages With Red Dye 40

Red is an enticing color and beverages commonly contain red dye 40 to make them more appealing. An example would be sports drinks in flavors such as strawberry, cherry, fruit punch or pink lemonade. Even orange-colored drinks may contain Red dye 40 along with yellow coloring to achieve the desired shade. Red dye 40 can even be found on your night out; cocktail mixers such as grenadine, strawberry daiquiri mix, some flavored ginger ales and maraschino cherries contain this artificial color.

Foods With Red Dye 40

Red dye 40 is an ingredient in many foods with a strawberry, cherry, berry or even orange flavor: fruit snacks, yogurt, breakfast cereals, jams and jellies, candy and even cereal bars and toaster tarts. Some not-so-obvious foods that contain Red dye 40 include hot dogs, beef jerky, salad dressings, potato and corn chips, cheese balls and pizza. One thing all of these foods have in common is that they’re highly processed; this is a good clue in the hunt for artificial colors.

Unexpected Sources

There are other places you’ll find Red dye 40 that may surprise you. Some fake butters in butter-flavored popcorn contain it, as do some barbecue sauces and lasagna. Cold medicines, pill coatings, cough drops, gum, mouthwash and vitamins are common carriers of this coloring and for those with an allergy to Red dye 40, label-reading becomes essential. Fortunately, Red dye 40 must be listed as an ingredient on U.S.-made products but let the buyer beware of imported foods.

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