Candy is a favorite for kids and adults alike, but some of the sweet treats -- along with other foods, drinks, even medicine -- may be made with a food coloring called Red Dye No. 3.
While the dye adds vibrant color, Consumer Reports warns of potentially harmful health hazards and is questioning why companies are still allowed to put it in some of the things we eat.
“I am concerned about the long-term effects, neurologically and developmentally, so I just try to avoid them if I can,” said Elena Ramsden, a mom who tries to give her kids food that are free from additives and artificial food dyes.
“Red Dye No. 3, also known as erythrosine, is a synthetic dye derived from petroleum, and it’s used in food and drinks to give them a bright cherry-red color,” explained Consumer Reports Investigative Reporter Lauren Kirchner.
Decades ago, the Food and Drug Administration banned Red Dye No. 3 from all cosmetics after studies showed it caused cancer in lab animals -- yet the dye is still lurking in thousands of varieties of candies, gummies, cakes, beverages, and medicine.
“So, how is it possible that this coloring is banned in makeup but not from the candy that many of our children could be eating?” questioned Kirchner.
That’s why last October, Consumer Reports, along with more than 20 other advocacy groups, signed a petition from the Center for Science in the Public Interest to ask the FDA to prohibit the use of Red Dye No.3 in food, dietary supplements, and ingested drugs.
In fact, searching the database of the Environmental Working Group, Consumer Reports found more than 2,900 food products that contain Red Dye No. 3.
In addition to the potential cancer risk, some studies have raised concerns that artificial food dyes, including Red Dye No. 3, contribute to neurobehavioral problems in children, such as hyperactivity.
The International Association of Color Manufacturers, an industry group, told Consumer Reports that there isn’t enough evidence associating the dye with behavioral problems, and maintains it’s safe at the levels most people consume.
To limit artificial colors, Consumer Reports says to read the ingredients carefully. The FDA requires manufacturers to list Red Dye No. 3 dye on the label.
Along with Red Dye No. 3, food safety experts are also concerned about other artificial dyes. Studies of kids’ exposure to Red No. 40, Yellow No. 5, and Yellow No. 6 have also shown neurobehavioral effects in children.