If you often read the ingredients label on the foods you buy, you’ve probably seen “Red 40” listed as an ingredient in several products. FD&C Red 40 is a food coloring and it is used in everything from candies to sports drinks, as well as cereals and many other common products. But, just what exactly is it and where does it come from? You might think a food dye is harmless enough, especially if it’s FDA approved, but you may want to think again.
Where Red 40 Comes From
A lot of people erroneously think FD&C Red 40, which also goes by the name “Allura Red Ac,” is made from crushed insects – the chochineal bug, to be exact. Although that’s not the case – and as if that wasn’t gross enough – Red 40 is actually made from coal tar and/or petroleum. Not exactly an appetizing thought.
Vegans may want to reconsider purchasing anything that contains Red 40. Even though Red 40 does not contain any animal derivatives, it is tested for safety on animals, including mice and rats. After the dye is tested on the animals, the animals are euthanized.
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Perhaps the most serious health concern surrounding Red 40 that should be carefully considered, especially by parents, is that Red 40 has been known to cause a slew of behavioral problems in children, including ADHD, hyper activity, irritability, aggressiveness, and problems learning. Studies done on mice have shown that Red 40 can damage their DNA. Red 40 has also been linked to cancer, although some of the studies have been inconclusive. According to Milton Stokes, M.P.H., R.D., Red 40 contains carcinogenic compounds, such as benzodine and 4-aminobiphenyl.
How Can I Avoid Red 40?
Red 40 can be found in a plethora of products, from barbecue sauce to frozen lasagna to fruit bars and even beverages like ice tea. To put things simply, if the product looks unnaturally red, the dye is probably the culprit. A lot of these are an established part of the American diet, so finding a way around them can take an adjustment period at first. But if you’re already a vegan, you probably have some experience in this area.
The most effective things you can do are stay away from processed food and read labels carefully. As surprising as it might seem foods that aren’t red or orange can still include Red 40 – for instance types of salad dressing, crackers, or even some types of cheese.
Reading the label is the only way to keep track of exactly what goes into your body. As a general note, Red 40 can also be listed under other names like Allura Red, FD & C Red No. 40, or C. I. 16035.
If you want to use food coloring to dye your own homemade foods, there are plenty of all-natural alternatives you can use instead of Red 40. Pomegranate juice, raspberry juice, beet juice, and cherry juice can all be used to add a vibrant red coloring to your foods. You can also use these natural juices to dye fabrics.