6 On Your Side: Consumer Confidence, potential health hazards of red food dye

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(ABC 6 News) – When it comes to food, appearances can be deceiving, especially when it comes to coloring and flavoring.

Think back to all those Valentine’s Day candies you may have enjoyed, especially the red ones.

Some of them could have been made with a food coloring called “Red No. 3” dye.

While the dye adds vibrant color, Consumer Reports explains it adds potentially harmful health hazards as well.

“Red No. 3 dye, also known as Erythrosine, is a synthetic dye derived from petroleum, and is used in food and drinks to give them a kind of bright cherry-red color,” explains Consumer Reports’ Lauren Kirchner.

Decades ago the Food and Drug Administration banned Red No. 3 dye 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 even medicines.

“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,” asks 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 No. 3 dye in foods, dietary supplements and ingested drugs.

Besides the potential cancer risk, some studies show concerns that artificial food dyes, including Red No. 3, contribute to children’s neurobehavioral problems, such as hyperactivity.

The International Association of Color Manufacturers, an industry trade group, tells Consumer Reports that there is not enough evidence associating the dye with behavioral problems, and maintains it is safe at the levels most people consume.

The FDA requires manufacturers to list Red No. 3 dye on the label.

Food safety experts are also concerned about other artificial dyes.

Studies of kids’ exposure to Red No. 40, Yellow No. 5, and Yellow No. 6have similarity shown neurobehavioral effects in children.