Is Red Dye #40 Hiding in Your Pantry?
Photo Credit: Huw Jones/Getty Images
My son's birthday was yesterday, and in an effort to make his day (and make up for all the days I didn't volunteer at school this year), I baked cupcakes and brought them into his class. He was quick to tell me that one child in the class can't have red food coloring, and since I was making baseball cupcakes with red "stitching" I made sure to leave one aside for this child without the stitching. White cupcakes with white frosting-what could be wrong with that? But the teacher brought him an alternative treat from the snack closet, and told him that he'd have to bring the cupcake home to his mother so she could decide if he could have it or not. The problem-red dye #40 is in white cake mix! I was shocked, but sure enough when I got home I checked the box (I suppose if I baked from scratch this might not be an issue but I am a good enough mother) and there was red dye #40 listed on the ingredients.
The Secret Life of Red Dye #40
I'm not obsessed with checking to see if there is food dye in everything I buy, although maybe I should be. Whether it's been proven or not, I believe that certain food colorings have a negative effect (unless you consider bouncing off the walls positive) on children, and adults for that matter. Certainly, there are people who have severe enough reactions to food dyes that they land in the hospital, and I am not naïve enough to think that if I buy berry popsicles that there isn't dye in them, but when I heard there was red dye #40 in white cake mix, I had to look to see what other unsuspecting foods it resided in.
It's impossible to say that all brands of a certain food include red dye #40, so there's no saying don't eat any strawberry yogurt. And that's a good thing because we don't want to have to give up our favorite foods, and there may be a brand out there that's making it without the dye. But there are a few general things I noticed when trying to find other foods that contained red dye #40.
--It seems to be most often found in foods that are any kind of berry flavored, peach flavored or chocolate flavored.
--Any foods and drinks that are red, orange, blue, purple, or brown may have red dye #40. That includes cheesy flavored snacks and iced teas.
--In addition to box cake mixes, also look at pre-made pie crusts and dough as well as frosting.
--Don't forget to check your medicines.
Knowledge is Power
The bottom line is that if you are concerned about feeding your family and friends red dye #40 you may find it in many unexpected places. Never assume that a product doesn't have it no matter how "natural" it appears to be as the only way to know for sure is by reading the list of ingredients. And even if you don't have an issue with feeding it to your family, it's still important to be aware of what might be hiding in your food. It certainly would have affected my purchase when choosing a cake mix for my son's class.
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