Nowadays many people think more about their health condition, especially the things that they have been eating for many years, like food coloring. The most controversial one is the red dye, is there a natural red food dye? Is red food coloring made of bugs? And the most common question: is red food coloring bad for you?
Red food coloring is also called red dye 40 or red dye 4. The FDA (Food and Drug Administration) officially acknowledged those colors to be used as food coloring, which means it should be safe for the human body. Both Red dyes have not been linked to any specific type of cancer, however, it isn’t clear so far, how much exposure could increase the risk of cancer, it can also be the cause of allergic reactions to foods with that dye, but is it really that safe for us to eat that?
Is the red dye made from bugs?
You have to know that there are two other kinds of dyes red 4 and red 40. The red 40 dye is made synthetically from petroleum, and not from bugs! On the other hand, we have dye red 4 and… yea this one is made from bugs, beetles to be precise. That bug is called cochineal.
The red 4 is also called carmine, cochineal, and carminic acid if you would like to avoid dyes made of dead bugs then watch out for those names. You can think of it this way: “bugs are all-natural” and it isn’t strictly vegan, but it has still been approved by The FDA, but technically you’re still eating bugs.
Cochineal is widely used in many products even these days, the most common places where you can find them are:
- Ice cream
- Frozen fish and meat
- Soft drinks and fruit drinks
- Energy drinks
- Canned soups
- Yogurts and dairy-based drinks
- Candies, popsicles, chewing gum, and syrups
- Lipstick, blush, eyeshadow, nail polish, and many other cosmetic items
The Red dye 40, which is based on petroleum is commonly used for:
- Sodas, tea, and juices
- Breakfast cereals
- Packaged fruit products
- Packaged snacks
Those are the products with the highest chances of finding the red dye 4. There are many others so be sure to read the label on the product, there should be a position with “coloring dye”.
Can it cause any allergic reactions?
Let’s get back to Red dye 40 (it’s not made from bugs), it has a high chance of an allergic reaction. this Allergic reaction to foods may include itchiness in the mouth and throat, lips swelling, face swelling, and tongue tingling. With unnatural food coloring, the chemicals that compose the dye can break down into very small particles that are sometimes viewed by the body as a dangerous threat.
Even in amounts that are considered safe for most people. For example, food dye allergies affect around 4% of people who have any sort of allergies. The red dye 40 has been associated with many symptoms like migraines.
Is red food coloring bad for you if you have an allergic reaction to it? Yes, if you ever had an allergic reaction to any red food, you should visit your nearest doctor who specialized in allergic symptoms.
Is red 40 tested on animals?
Unfortunately yes, Red 40 continues to this day to be tested on animals, to see any long-term effects. Here are some studies from PubMed about Red 40 from 2020, and 2019.
Even today we are not 100% sure that any food coloring is completely safe for humans, that’s why the studies about this topic are still ongoing.
It is not universally recognized as a must for vegans to avoid red 40, but it’s good to avoid processed food in general.
In summary, is red food coloring bad for you?
Yes, it is bad because it’s mostly used in processed food, which is bad in general, and you can overdose on it. The FDA approved it many years ago, it’s still in the process of testing and it isn’t banned in any other country, so for the year 2021, it looks like a safe coloring for our food.
Also for a vegan person, it is a hard question, but you have to choose for yourself if eating bugs in the red 4 dye should be considered not vegan. As for the body detox, from food coloring, you can you fruitarian diet, or vegetable diet, to purify your body after years of eating processed food coloring.