by Beth Bruno 06/20/2002
More on Red Dye #40
Several months ago I printed an article about negative effects
of Red Dye #40, a common food additive. I received dozens of
letters from readers about their experiences with a host of nasty
symptoms that they traced to food dyes. So I wrote a letter to
the FDA asking for information about their research. Along with
the letter I included copies (names deleted to protect privacy)
of about a dozen of the letters readers had sent to me. I got
the run-around from the FDA. I was sent to regional representatives
who, instead of trying to answer my questions, kept asking me
what I wanted to know.
Next I contacted a local television station with the same
information (including copies of the letters). No response from
the consumer advocate there either. How do we as consumers get
agencies like the FDA or consumer watchdog groups to sit up and
take notice? How do you get a response when you have a consumer
I continue to receive several letters a month about the negative
effects of food dyes (red dye in particular). The following is
a sampling of some of recent letters.
I am the mother of a seven-year-old daughter who has a defiant,
out-of-control, hyper reaction when she has something that contains
the red#40 dye. I am doing all I can to eliminate red#40 from
her diet, but it is in so many products.
I am not the only parent with this problem. I brought this
topic up with many of my friends and had them do the same experiment
that I did by taking this out of their children's diets. Their
reaction was total amazement. Their children became well behaved
Why is the FDA not doing something about this? How can we
as concerned parents help to bring this to other parents attention?
Please let me know.
I read your article about red #40 and thought I would add
our experience to the list in case it may help others.
My daughter is 21 years old and has had severe reactions to
Red #40 since she was 12 years old. She began to have severe
asthma attacks at about age 12. She had never had asthma before
and was ending up in the hospital emergency room on a regular
basis. We were giving her a popular cough syrup (as per doctors
orders) about 6 times a day plus inhalers. She just got worse.
After much detective work I finally realized it was the red
dye that was causing her attacks. Now if she eats even a tablespoon
of something with red dye in it she gets very sick and starts
coughing immediately. We have found out the cough syrup she was
taking is loaded with red dye and so was the candy she was eating
to get rid of the taste of the inhalers. So instead of helping
her get better we were making things worse.
As a side note, her doctor doesn't trust our theory of red
dye being the problem, and that is how I stumbled onto your articles
and letters from readers. Her father, her husband, her mother
(me) and my daughter all KNOW it is the red dye, and we are trying
to convince the doctor. Red #40 is found everywhere and is very
often used in medicines.
The doctor's concern is that she is limiting the antibiotics
and other medicines she can take by eliminating those with red
#40. I am still searching for ways to convince him, short of
a major attack in his office after ingesting red #40. If you
learn anymore about the dye and asthma could you please inform
me or address it on the web site?
I've read that red 40 causes hives in some people. Recently,
I began having a reaction when I ate orange or red foods that
were artificially colored. It seems like the one thing they all
had in common was red 40.
My reaction is that my legs itch! I've never heard of such
a crazy reaction, but if some people get hives from the dye,
it makes the itching sound more plausible. I'll usually begin
itching the next day and it will last 4 days or more. It's almost
a painful itch, and I've used Solarcaine to calm it down. My
skin does not turn red and I do not get hives. It never happened
until months ago when I began eating strawberry yogurt almost
every day at work. I had a giant reaction that lasted about 3
or 4 weeks and it was terrible!
At first I thought it was just yogurt in general, but I don't
seem to have a problem with yogurt that doesn't have red 40.
I'd really love to hear your thoughts on this. I've been allergy
tested but I only reacted to the dust test. I was tested for
food allergies but I'm not sure if red 40 is included.
About three weeks ago, my 12 year old son suffered swelling
and hives on his face and torso. Realizing this was some sort
of allergic reaction, I questioned him concerning his activities.
I immediately gave him benedryl and rubbed hydrocortisone on
the affected areas. The swelling, hives and redness went away.
A few days later, this again occurred. The conclusion was that
the reaction was the result of his eating a handful of cheese
puffs. I have been able to convince him that eliminating food
dyes is not such a bad thing and fortunately, he has been fairly
My question is this: Where may one obtain some objective and
detailed information concerning the effects of food dyes on both
the body and behavior in both children and adults? Have independent
studies been done on this? How reliable are these test results
you mentioned which were performed by the FDA? As a younger child,
this son also exhibited some odd behavior patterns (making involuntary
noises, twitches, some hyper activity). Most of these symptoms
seem to have subsided, but I can't help but wonder about links
to food dyes.
He also suffers from topical reactions occasionally with laundry
detergent and soap. It varies from time to time and product to
product. As a loving parent, I want my child to enjoy good health
as well as be able to take charge of his health as he grows older.
The teen years are around the corner, so the time for influencing
his decisions grows short. I would appreciate any information
or insight you could send my way.
I read your article regarding allergies to red dye 40. I am
a 52 year old female who, over the past several years, has had
allergic reactions to certain yogurts when they contain fruit,
especially strawberries (I am not allergic to strawberries alone).
I have also had the same allergic reaction, which is severe swelling
of both eyes, itching and burning of the eyes, and antihistamines
do not help as the allergic reaction progresses. It usually takes
a couple of days until the swelling is completely gone. Yesterday
I had the same reaction when I ate Silouette Ice Cream Sandwiches
(strawberry flavored). I noticed that Red Dye 40 was a common
denominator for both the ice cream and the Fat Free Dannon Yogurt
I have also had the same severe reaction to certain eye makeups
(eye shadows which have a red coloring in it). The allergic reaction
only seems to immediately affect my eyes. On a rare occasion
I developed itching and a rash on my hands, but it does not always
occur. Always the swelling on my eyes. Sometimes I sneeze prior
to the swelling. I would like to know if these symptoms are typical
of Red Dye 40 allergies.
Note from Beth Bruno: I don't consider these anecdotes to
be scientific proof that Red Dye #40 is harmful. But I've received
so many letters that describe so many negative symptoms, I think
it worth further investigation, especially since I know of no
nutritional benefits humans derive from these dyes. If even one
person is harmed by them, why add them at all?
* Articles about Red Dye #40: http://www.spidercreations.com/brian/reddye
* Previous Education Q&A articles on Red Dye from March,
Minerals are essential to