Red Dye Allergy – What’s All The Controversy?

Wang Yan
Wang Yan

Global Courant

Do you know what red food coloring is? Yes, of course, it is a food coloring. But what else do you know about it? Do you know that there is a controversy surrounding it? According to some doctors, it is just a benign additive, but parents have found that their children experience unhealthy results from consuming it.

So what is red food coloring? Red food coloring or Red 40 as it is commonly known is an FDA (Food and Drug Administration) approved food coloring that is added to a wide variety of foods. In general, we don’t even notice that much of our food is artificially colored. And it’s not just food; many medicines are also colored.

How is it made? It is made from crude oil pumped from the ground in Venezuela and Saudi Arabia.

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Why was it added? It is used in the belief that it makes food and medicine more attractive. For example, people like to eat ripe red apples, strawberries or other red fruit. Our minds are convinced that if a food or medicine is red, it can also be delicious and good for us. Often products in their original form are not very tasty, and Red 40 is a very cost-effective way to achieve a beautiful tan. Something that appeals to the consumer is very important.

Is it safe? When it was first approved by the FDA, there was a lot of fear that it could cause tumors and cancers. One scientist even cited a study that showed that an animal fed Red 40 gets very sick and that combining Red with other colors or preservatives will kill it. It was later proven not to cause cancer, but I have not heard of any follow-up studies proving or disproving the animal problem.

But doesn’t the FDA say it’s safe? That’s right, but it also said that Viox was safe (it causes heart attacks and strokes), and Paxil was safe (it caused more anxiety in adolescents, leading to an increased risk of suicide), and many others; all of which have been withdrawn from the market. Remember that the FDA is a much underfunded organization. It relies on the fees it charges to test companies’ products. With this money, it hires contractors and, in many cases, relies on the companies’ own testing procedures.

Does Red 40 cause problems in children? Many doctors insist that any change in behavior is not due to this dye. They point to the controversy over sugar. Many parents will confirm that their children become extremely hyperactive after taking a lot of it. These doctors have said that there is no evidence that sugar has an adverse effect. And just like with sugar, many parents see changes in their children after eating a product containing Red 40. After experiencing the results, some doctors finally join.

Can red food coloring really affect these kinds of kids? According to Doctor Robert Needlman “about 1 in 100 – who were clearly much more active and out of control” when eating an artificial diet including Red 40. But most of the evidence is anecdotal. There are many parents who can tell you what it can do to their children. I can tell you what it does to my son. He has some of the reactions these parents describe.

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What does “get out of hand” mean? Children can have many different reactions to Red 40, including increased tantrums, increased hyperactivity, aggressive behavior, uncontrollable crying and screaming, kicking, nervousness, and other things that parents can attest to. Physically, they may get a headache or feel nauseated after eating anything containing it. Adults can also feel nauseous or get migraines.

How can we find out if a child is responding to Red 40? This is easy. Observe your child’s normal behavior. Does she have tantrums? Notice how violent he is. Check out any of the other “got out of control” behaviors listed above. Then give her a juice with Red 40 in it; there are several on the market. Responses can take place within minutes. Have her usual tantrums escalated? Is he getting more violent? Do they get sick? Needlman thinks this type of testing is safe. Seeing how my son reacts to it, I’m not sure I totally agree.

Why don’t people believe all this? Probably because they haven’t seen “scientific evidence” to support these issues. Most of what we read are anecdotes told by parents or people who have experienced this firsthand. People’s first reaction is to blame parents for “bad parenting” or misinterpreting “normal” events in children. The problem is they haven’t even seen a child (or adult) react to Red 40. When I describe my son’s reaction to people, they all tend to laugh at me until they actually see it happen to him; then they understand.

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Red Dye Allergy – What’s All The Controversy?

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