Food dye enhances natural coloring of foods, making them look more appetizing. Dye also helps prevent color fading from light or heat exposure. 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 foods with red dye, but so far the evidence is inconclusive.
Foods With Red Dye
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
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Red No. 3 contains a substance called p-Cresidine, which is likely to be a carcinogen, or cancer-causing chemical, based on findings from animal research. Some people are sensitive to food dyes such as Red No. 40 and may experience a variety of allergic reactions such as rash and difficulty concentrating, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Avoiding Food Coloring
Food labels are your best friend when it comes to avoiding food with food coloring. 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 if your goal is a no red dye diet. This includes foods marketed as healthy such as fiber bars and oatmeal with fruit.
- The Center for Science in the Public Interest: Chemical Cuisine Learn about Food Additives
- International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health: Toxicology of Food Dyes
- United States Food and Drug Administration: Overview of Food Ingredients, Additives & Colors
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: p-Cresidine