The Red 40 Menace


I’m not usually a fan of food additive scares, as I find a lot of the

"science" driving them to be somewhat emotionally based rather than factually

based. For example, one of the urban legends surrounding this topic can be found

here. Be sure to read the whole article before you retch.

I like to point out that we have the safest and most nutritious food supply

in the history of mankind right now, but we also have a lot of bad choices

available. Its when the good choices start to become problematic that I get


Food coloring, specifically Red

Dye number 40 is found in so many things, that its often hard to know if its in a food unless

you read the fine print on the product label. For example, today I found out that EGGO waffles

have Red#40 in them. It was a complete surprise. There are hundreds of other

foods that you wouldn’t suspect that have it too.

I have two small children, and my wife has found that Red Dye 40 can lead to

behavioral problems in young children. I was skeptical at first, but when we

removed all foods and snacks containing Red 40 from our son’s diet, we began to see a marked

change towards the mellow, easy going child he used to be.

It works. Here is an

article from for you to read if you have an interest in this



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March 21, 2007 7:52 am

You are stating to sound like some hippy whacko. All food additives have been thoroughly tested and shown to be safe. Do you really think that a major food company would add something that could hurt you?
Kids moods go up and down all the time. I’m sure a few tenths of a gram of dye won’t make much difference. Don’t worry, the food is safe.

March 21, 2007 10:29 am

Jim, if I hadn’t seen the results myself, I wouldn’t believe it either. I don’t doubt that Red 40 is tested and safe for consumption, I never said it wasn’t. But like anything you consume there can be side effects. Even Aspirin has side effects…eating chilies has side effects, eating too many prunes has side effects.
What Red 40 has is a side effect for some kids…I’m not suggesting banning it, only making people aware of the side effect and what my familiy learned about it.
Maybe the “tongue in cheek” headline was too over the top, eh?

March 21, 2007 11:38 am

What you are looking at is called Anecdotal Evidence. It’s not scientific evidence. You have seen a change in your kids behavior. So what, kids behavior changes all the time. What makes you think it’s the red dye? What else has changed? The weather, time change, and 100 other variable factors. Perhaps it’s other factors in the food or perhaps an allergy to some item such as wheat or nuts? Yet you jump to the conclusion that it’s the red dye.
You are a victim of the liberal agenda which tends to categorize corporations as evil and selling us bad food. It’s nonsense. All food additives must be approved by the FDA, and shown to be safe.
I recall kids in school who weren’t allowed to eat the food regular food. Their parents had them on some goofy health food diet. It was a shame. Allow your kids to have a normal life and eat regular food. Relax, you have nothing to worry about.
*** Reply Jim I think you are reading too much into my posting.

March 21, 2007 10:07 pm

OK I’m confused. Remember when the red M&M’s were gone for quite a long time? It was because of the red dye…same kind of scare> Now the red M&M’s are back, and a bunch of other colors. Why, if the dye is so dangerous? Also, if the dye is really in so many foods why were they not removed from our shelves…empty grocery stores…empty bellies? Maybe they have changed the dye…and now they think this one is bad too…who can keep up?
Might the sugar difference might be a more likely factor?
****Reply – Tis a quandary for sure

March 27, 2007 10:15 am

Anthony: Your red dye and behavior observation is accurate. True, food additives are tested for potential physical harm potential, but that’s about it! Red Dye #40 probably won’t cause a cancerous tumor growth, but may cause other problems- including behavioral ones.
When my grown children were small, we too discovered red dyes and even other naturally occuring products had a remarkable affect on agression and behavior.
If interested, check out the “Feingold diet” which also studies these interactions…. for us and our kids, it DID work well within 2-3 weeks, and was not too restrictive as to thwart compliance with the diet.
With the marked increase of ADHD / ADD and other hyper kinetic “issues” in children, I wonder how much may be explained (or at least contributed to) by additives and other environmental chemicals.
Medication is readily available to “control” symptoms and in the modern day and age are easier than effective parenting or just saying “no” to their demands for junk/crap foods and snacks.
I don’t believe I’m paranoid or otherwise hystrionic, but after 30+ years of practicing medicine, one does see a correlation which may be anecdotal but cannot be discounted.
If your children benefited from withholding Red dye #40, I really do recommend the book on the Feingold diet and can vouch for it’s positive results- at least with my kids…
Anthony- I for one miss your scientific presence on air and wish you the best in your new public service arena!

March 30, 2007 8:58 am

Stumbled onto your blog searching for info on Red 40. Jan has it right, they are tested by FDA and proven “safe” for such things as cancer and birth defects – not behavioral issues. My little girl is allergic to Red 40, discovered through OTC children’s meds. She gets hives (allergy) and hyper (intolerance), so even if people don’t believe the behavioral issues, the allergy is real – AND not recognized by our US FDA (though it accepts (grudgingly) 1:10,000 might be allergic to Yellow 5).Anyhoo, my point in posting is I’m trying to find reasoned, considered research and information on the issues surrounding Red 40. I’ve created a group over at ( where people can share stories, information, research and resources related to Red 40 and other food issues. Thought you’d be interested, and I’m interested to hear what others have to say.And don’t let the liberal agenda talk sway you from your own parental instincts. Dyes like Red 40 were last tested for the FDA 20+ years ago, and NOT for things like behavorial effets. There are doubts, and other tests being conducted to try and pin down any possible effects to such additives. Besides, comments like Jim’s discount the possibilities that environment, human bodies and science change all the time, and new discoveries are what science is about. As for Tina’s comments, I think it was a different red dye (Red 3?).Thanks for your time.

April 9, 2007 9:38 pm

Anthony – great topic. I provide technology consulting services to the life science industry, specifically clinical trials, so I’m familiar with the rigor that goes into drug approval and supporting evidence.
That being said, a colleague recently turned us towards a red40 free diet for our 4 year old son, who historically has displayed many of the hyperactivity tendencies described on this blog. We had tried many things from a behavior perspective, but began to think we were heading down the ADHD path.
Without telling the caregivers at his daycare, we began the red40 free diet, and it resulted in almost instant benefit. By the end of the week, the teachers in his room approached the center director and asked if we had begun medicating him. The benefits have been more than just calmer behavior, but he will sit still longer for dinner, car rides, church, etc., as well as settling himself down faster at bedtime. Granted, he is still an energetic 4 year old boy, but the difference has been amazing.
At the end of the day, while some will note the absence of “scientific” or “clinical” evidence of the benefits for a red40 free diet, it will not hurt your child to remove it from their diet (probably healthier to begin with…), and you have nothing to loose by trying. If it works for you, stick with it — it has certainly worked wonders for us. Good luck!

April 30, 2007 11:19 pm

This is an interesting point you bring up. As for those who are kind of bashing you saying the FDA wouldn’t approve of something that would be potentially harmful.. maybe they should do some research themselves on what the FDA has allowed in our country.
1. Vioxx which caused heart attack and strokes. Pulled off the market not after the FDA mandated it, but after the lawsuits piled up.
2. DES which was used to prevent miscarriages actually caused the children born to develop cancer and sterility
3. Paxil which was found to cause an increase in anxousness in adolescents; which led to an increase risk for suicide (it is an antidepressant)
4. While not FDA approved; Thalidomide was still prescribed by doctors (yes the FDA did not stop them from doing that) which caused the “flipper defects” in children causing short stubby appendages or none at all.
5. Direct Black 38; Direct Blue 6: Just 2 Food dyes of many that have been banned after already being used. (these are carcinogens)
and Red # 2 dye; an interesting case. It is a known carcinogen but is still allowed on the skin of Florida Oranges because it does not penetrate the skin… ok that sounds safe.
Don’t assume the FDA can and will stop everything potentially harmful from reaching the market. There is very rigorous research that needs to go into these testing and its not always done well enough or long enough to find all possible side effects from drugs/dyes/cosmetics/additives
And yes they changed the dye in Red M&M’s.
While its easy to blame liberals (thank you Anthony; conservatives are so well loved too) there is usually a reason that issues like this come up; because they have been shown to be true before and they will again. (If noone questioned it how would we find out if anything was wrong with it?)
I applaud you Jim for actually taking action yourself and trying something rather than waiting for the FDA to tell you that you shouldn’t or taking the easy way out and throwing medication at him. All existing food additives must NOT be approved safe, they must have evidence showing that they are unsafe, meaning that it can be on the market for over a decade before someone compiles enough evidence to show that we should not have been eating this for so many years.

May 1, 2007 4:56 pm

Wow – some of the most insightful comments I’ve seen on this subject to date. I will arm myself with this information when I contact our pediatrician about my son’s hives and out-of-the-ordinary very aggressive and defiant behavior after eating some fruit snacks. Yes, I know that 3-1/2 year old boys can be hyper and mischevious, but this seemed over the top for him, and I kind of got the feeling that he couldn’t stop what he was doing. I’ll keep checking in for more information.

May 9, 2007 8:19 pm

This is actually for JIM, who obviously knows absolutely nothing. Jim, you stated that – “All food additives have been thoroughly tested and shown to be safe. Do you really think that a major food company would add something that could hurt you? ” Well yes of course its “tested” but do you know WHO is testing it? O well yes the FDA and USDA approve many things. But did you know that the FDA/USDA has approved OVER 100 ingredients that are actually lethal to humans. It may not kill you after consuming it once or twice. It affects you over time. And jim c’mon now, who says the FDA/USDA is correct. Your actually going to believe that the government doesnt want to slowly kill off the idiots who eat all that sh*t and makes them stupid? REALLY? Jim, i do not appreciate dumb people. So the next time you want to state your opinion, THINK. Also, if you are still consuming these toxins then i feel very sorry for you because you will never resonate to a higher level of being.

May 12, 2007 8:48 am

Anyways Jim, lots of big companies put trans fat in food and it has no known human benefits

May 13, 2007 6:16 am

You aren’t imagining anything. It’s real. My son had behaviorial issues in pre-K. He was the school bully. We even had to switch teachers. It was horrifying. He would go into fits of rage including uncontrollable screaming and crying. It started again in Kindergarten. We stumbled across the Red Dye 40 allergy when a family member suggested we try eliminating it. We were vigilant (My God, it is in everything!) and eliminated it from his diet. The same week, we got a call from his kindergarten teacher wanting to know what we had done. She couldn’t believe the change.
Do you know they ban this stuff in Europe!?
Check out some of the Yellows too. So far, it is just Red Dye 40 for us. I can tell when he has it because he falls into a rage. I go digging in the trash can for the wrapper and there it is lurking in some unsuspecting food. Watch the labels on chocolate frosting, Pillsbury Crescent Rolls and white and yellow cake mixes. We found it the other day in Lime Tostitos Chips. Why???? My son is even more diligent than we are now because he doesn’t want to feel horrible. He is 10 now and a wonderful child.

Corey Spero
June 19, 2007 9:59 am

I have read these comments with interet. I am an adult who develoed RED DYE allergy about 12 years ago after getting Shingles. It is a real allergy. I started with hives, and I now carry an epipen because I am anaphalyctic ( my throat closes), heart rate goes up and face swells. It is a very real dangerous allergy. I probably have more knowledge than most here. I have been told to stay away from all red dye.It can also be found in products that are white or clear, so you must be careful.When in doubt, do without. I am an elementary teacher , so I can also testify to the marked behavior difference in the behavior of children who are taken off the dye with correlation to ADD. Interesting to see so many people who are unaware of the dye problem. I have done much research on the subject, the reason why it is in so many foods in the U.SA. is the drug lobbyists who campaign big time to keep it in the marketplace. Countries like Canada and some European coutries (Belgium, Denmark) have outlawed RED DYE 40 specificallly because it has been found to be cancer causing. Please feel free to email me,I have extensive knowledge about this , just too much for me to post. More people need to become aware of all the dye, I am not a hippy, ( I use bleach in my hair ) but I am smart and use makeups that are beautiful and American made that don’t contain dyes. They are bad for everyone. There are alternatives to use that are not carcinogenic.

July 30, 2007 12:07 pm

I also discovered the effects of red #40 on my own daughter when she was about 20 months old. I almost took her to the hospital her attack was that scary. It came about by eating yoplait yogurt. Many months of trial and error later we finally believed in the red #40 culprit. It was a hard adjustment for us and I was very skeptical at first but now I am shocked that more people aren’t aware of this. I am annoyed that we have all this junk in our food anyway. I posted about this topic in my own blog too. White frosting and even chocolate ovaltine powder contains red #40.

September 23, 2007 10:31 am

My son has reactions to red 40. I’ve cut it from his diet and he now sleeps at night and has stopped acting like a two year old with ADHD. It is not sugar. I have not cut anything else from his diet except red 40.
I had surgery two days ago and needed help so my dad’s girlfriend kept my son and inadvertently fed him red #40 because she didn’t read her labels and thinks red 40 is only in red candy. He is still coming off his two day red 40 high and now he has started HANDFLAPPING.
Red 40 is in many foods of any color. It used to be in green beans! Read all your labels. All parents who have children with sleeping problems and/or ADHD symptoms should try cutting red 40 out of their child’s diet. Read all labels. It is worth it.

September 25, 2007 6:03 am

Wow… Jim has issues.

September 26, 2007 4:17 pm

Wow! This blog is really informational. I’m just starting research into the Red Dye 40. It’s scary what we put in our bodies.

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