Red dye 40is one of the common artificial dyes found in processed foods. While you may be taking this dye every day, chances are there are facts about it you may not know. Discover these facts below.

Pickles, chocolate pudding, cookies, barbeque sauce, and candies. What do all these foods have in similar? If you guessed that they are highly sugaryfoods, you’re right. But there is something more than just being unhealthy. They all contain something known as red dye 40. Red dye 40 is a type offood dye commonly used to add amazing flavors to meals. There has been unclear confusion about whether this artificial food additiveis safe for consumption, how it isused, and the right time for seasoning. To clear the whole story about this popular type of food dye, let’s see what you should know about this red dye 40!

How Is Red Dye 40 Made?

It’s obvious that this red additive is artificial. However, it’s not clear how it’s made and the magic that makes it instill amazing tastes in foods. In the earlier days, coal tar was the raw material for the red dye, but now the manufacturers shifted to petroleum combined with chemicals. This cocktail of ingredients used may not be safe for humans, animals, or the environment. It’s highly artificially refined, and it does not occur naturally in the environment. But it was produced to replace other red dyes that cause serious health issues as it is less harmful than others.

How Does Red Dye 40 Works?

Red dye 40, sometimes referred to as Allura red, is used as a colorant in foods, cosmetics, over-the-counter medication, and prescription drugs. It’s the explanation behind the bright red color in sodas, sauces, and cherry-flavored syrups. It’s also used to color items used on the skin. However, they’re not limited to red-colored products only. Sometimes they’re combined with other colors to create a different shade. So the only way to be sure if something has red dye 40 is by reading the label. Yet, labels in products don’t always use the same term to refer to a food additive. And because we want to have all information about this red additive, here are a few of the ingredients that can replace red dye 40;

  • C.I. 16035
  • C.I. Food Red 17
  • F.D. and C Red No.40
  • FD&C Red No. 40
  • Red No. 40
  • Red #40
  • Allura Red
  • Allura Red A.C.
  • Red 40 lake
  • Red 40 aluminum lake

Is Red Dye 40 Safe?

Red dye 40 is approved by FDA for consumption in food. Even so, it’s scientifically dangerous to human health. The chemicals in it, such as benzidine, 4-aminobiphenyl, and p-Cresidine, make it highly carcinogenic. They can be risky to both children and adults.

Are There Any Side Effects OfRed Dye 40?

Consumers, parents, medical professionals, and others have claimed that the common side effects include;

  • Headaches and migraines
  • Dizziness, nausea, and vomiting
  • Behavioral disorders
  • Easily triggered irritability
  • Learning impairments
  • Hyperactivity in children and adults
  • Aggressiveness
  • Skin allergic reactions like rashes, swelling around the mouth, and hives

Which Foods Can Offer You Red Dye 40?

New foods are popping out daily, and new ingredients are introduced often. It may not be easy to know the ingredients used in ingredients, so make sure you look at the label. The following are examples of food that contain Allura red;

  • Dairy products
  • Beverages
  • Frozen desserts
  • Sauces
  • Fruit bars
  • Breakfast cereals
  • Salas dressings
  • Baked foods
  • Snacks
  • Candy
  • Condiments

Non-foods containing red dye 40 include cosmetics like lipstick, eye shadow, foundation, mascara, eyeliner, lotion, and other chemical-based products like shampoo, toothpaste, tattoo inks, and mouthwash.

How Do You Know If Products Contain Red Dye 40?

Nutrition information about products is usually found at the back of the item, next to ingredients details. Sometimes it could be creatively placed next to the item if it’s packaged in abox.But I know most of us rarely check that section. Anyways, who has the time to look at the item when we rarely even have the time to buy the product itself? But, no matter how lazy or time-limited you are, try to peruse the nutrients provided and their ratios.

What Are The Natural Alternatives For Red Dye 40?

As much as red dye 40 provides vibrant and enticing appearances on food, they pose health concerns that may damage our bodies. If the negative side effects of using this colorant have scared you enough to resort never to use them, we have an alternative for you. There are food colorings, which are free from artificial dyes, and any other harmful chemicals present in red dye 40. Don’t boo my suggestion yet; try thesemethods, and you’ll be surprised by just how they create an attractive look like the one in allure red-flavored products.

What Are The Sources Of Natural Dyes?

Fruits and vegetables make the best natural food dyes. They are mostly from the skin or any other part of the plant. Their natural, bright shades will give your food the perfect coloring.

Guidelines to Make a Natural Food Coloring At Home

Making food coloring at home is not as expensive and tiring as you may think. You only need few savings to buy the ingredients and fix some minutes to get creative with your homemade food coloring. Some of the ingredients you’ll need include;


You’ll need powders for beet, carrot, black cocoa, activated charcoal, matcha powder, cinnamon, and turmeric, among others.


You’ll need nutritional and bright vegetables like carrots, potatoes, red cabbage, spinach, andpurple sweet potatoes.


You’ll need liquids like beet juice, carrot juice, turmeric juice, espresso, blueberry juice, chlorophyll, parsley juice, pomegranate juice, and bicarb soda.

What’s The Best Natural Food Coloring?

The best natural food decorating color is India Tree. It contains zero chemicals and is fully loaded with vegetable colorants. They are best for cakes, cookies, cupcakes, pastries, doughnuts, candies, and good sprinkles for ice cream and frozen desserts. Other natural dyes include;

  • Let’s do organic sprinkles
  • Nature’s inspiration Food color
  • Color kitchen decorative food colors
  • Watkins Food coloring


The appearance of food can either entice us to want to taste it or make us temptedto claim we don’t have an appetite no matter how much our tummy worms might be complaining. That’s why food coloring is important fordessert, soup, or baked goods. Red dye is undoubtedly among the best food dyes, though it’s aligned with both advantages and disadvantages. To be safe, use it in moderation, and try to incorporate natural food dyes once in a while to reduce the health risks. If you choose to go natural, always start with the India tree, and if you cannot do without artificial food dye, Red dye 40 should always be your first pick!

Marie Salbuvik

Dietician MS, Lund University, Sweden Nutrition plays an important role in human life. Eating habits are one of the factors that affect our health. There is often a misconception among people that nutritionists force a very restrictive diet, but that is not true. In fact, I don't ban any products, but I point out dietary mistakes and help change them by giving tips and new recipes that I've tried myself. I advise my patients not to resist change and to be purposeful. Only with willpower and determination can a good result be achieved in any area of life, including changing eating habits. When I don't work, I love to go climbing. On a Friday evening, you are most likely to find me on my couch, cuddling with my dog and watching some Netflix.