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    Seeing Red: One Mother (A Medical Writer) Investigates Food Dyes

    October 4, 2013 •  142 comments.

     •  Blog, News

    Written by Amy Kilgore, a medical writer and healthcare public relations specialist who has a daughter with extreme sensitivity to dyes, for AllergyKids

    My daughter was two, and I was seeing red. A lot of red.

    I wasn’t angry. I was horrified. I had just discovered that the rash my toddler would get after certain candies was not in fact caused by chocolate, that the hyperactivity was not from too much sugar, that her uncontrollable bouts of crying and angry behavior were not because I was doing a lousy job of being a mom.

    My little girl Monica was reacting to food dyes. Most specifically, Red 40 and Yellow 5. I can’t recall which friend suggested it and what exact moment I realized it, but by the time she was two I was certain. I had (painfully) tested my theory by giving her things with red and yellow food dyes and logging the reactions. Yellow: rash, hyperactivity, trouble sleeping. Red: hyperactivity, followed by (really) mean behavior, followed by shaking and crying; trouble sleeping. It was exhausting and heartbreaking to witness her little body’s reaction when invaded by these dangerous and unnatural additives.

    Even more frightening was the realization of how many foods contain dyes.

    I’ll never forget one specific call from my mom. She was watching Monica, her firstborn grandbaby, for the day while I worked from home and caught up with life. I was putting clothes in the dryer when the phone rang. I could hear her concern in “Hi.” Followed by, “What has happened to our sweet girl?”

    Mom explained how Monica had been behaving – not listening, running around wildly, screaming, crying. I told her that the day before had been a bit trying as well. But we were perplexed, because we were so very careful with keeping her diet dye-free and had been the only ones feeding her for days.

    Then my mom, a registered nurse, gasped. “Omigosh. Her antibiotic is pink. You don’t think…?” I called the pharmacy. Yep, the liquid antibiotic we were giving Monica to treat an ear infection had Red 40. I had dosed her twice a day for four days with Red 40! Several calls to the pediatrician and pharmacy resulted in a prescription for an antibiotic without any artificial coloring, a note in Monica’s chart and pharmacy file, and a little girl who within a day was calm, cool and collected (albeit exhausted).

    I needed to know more about food dyes, and Mom and I dove into researching how and why they could “flip the switch” in Monica and, I assumed, most children. The more I learned, the sadder I felt for our children. Not only are food dyes causing hyperactivity, inability to concentrate, aggressiveness, sleep problems, increased symptoms of autism and ADHD, among many others, but they are known carcinogens. They cause cancer.

    Here’s some food for thought from the Center for Science in the Public Interest.

    “Back in 1985, the acting commissioner of the FDA said that Red 3, one of the lesser-used dyes, “has clearly been shown to induce cancer” and was “of greatest public health concern.” However, Secretary of Agriculture John R. Block pressed the Department of Health and Human Services not to ban the dye, and he apparently prevailed—notwithstanding the Delaney Amendment that forbids the use of in foods of cancer-causing color additives. Each year about 200,000 pounds of Red 3 are poured into such foods as Betty Crocker’s Fruit Roll-Ups and ConAgra’s Kid Cuisine frozen meals. Since 1985 more than five million pounds of the dye have been used.

    “Tests on lab animals of Blue 1, Blue 2, Green 3, Red 40, Yellow 5, and Yellow 6 showed signs of causing cancer or suffered from serious flaws, said the consumer group. Yellow 5 also caused mutations, an indication of possible carcinogenicity, in six of 11 tests.

    “In addition, according to the report, FDA tests show that the three most-widely used dyes, Red 40, Yellow 5, and Yellow 6, are tainted with low levels of cancer-causing compounds, including benzidine and 4-aminobiphenyl in Yellow 5. However, the levels actually could be far higher, because in the 1990s the FDA and Health Canada found a hundred times as much benzidine in a bound form that is released in the colon, but not detected in the routine tests of purity conducted by the FDA.”
    Source: www.cspinet.org

    Monica’s diet is completely dye-free, as are those of her little brother and my sister’s three boys. Not all five kids react the same to dyes – two react more intensely – but we still see significant behavioral reactions if they accidentally ingest food dyes, especially Red 40 and Yellow 5.

    Of course, maintaining dye-free diets becomes a great challenge once they hit school age and are not always under our watchful eyes. At the suggestion of my pediatrician, we list food dyes as an “allergy” on their medical forms. Listing as a “sensitivity” just didn’t garner the same attention and adherence to avoidance. Yet there are slip-ups, such as when a well-meaning teacher gives orange punch, saying it’s okay because it’s not red or yellow (sigh). Or when the treat handed out is a “safe” white cupcake with white frosting, yet the inside is “confetti” with pink and red candies.

    A recent incident sent the same shock through me that I had felt when I started investigating Red 40 eight years ago. I was having lunch with Monica, now age nine, at Eat’n Park. As long as we ate plain burgers and fruit for a side, Eat’n Park was one of the few restaurants I had tested and actually deemed “safe.” As a general rule, we reserve dessert as an occasional treat. That day I didn’t see any reason why Monica couldn’t have a slice of pie while I enjoyed another cup of coffee.

    We spent a long time looking over the pie menu. Lemon meringue? Nope, looked too yellow. The same with banana cream. Strawberry? Not a chance – way too red. Together we narrowed it down to apple or chocolate cream. She chose chocolate cream and was thoroughly enjoying it when I noticed the crust had a pink tint on the top where the chocolate cream was sitting, as did the white whipped cream topping where it touched the brown chocolate. I couldn’t imagine it had red dye (chocolate pie?!), but I strongly urged her not to eat any more. Much to her dismay, she stopped eating the pie about halfway through the slice.

    We had been having such a fantastic day – she’d been in such a good mood. Fast forward about one hour post-pie. She’s sitting in my car in her grandparents’ driveway, screaming at me and refusing to get out of the car because she wants to go home to change clothes. Even forceful prodding from her dad didn’t work. Exasperated, chalking it up to pre-teen hormones, I take her to change her clothes. As I’m telling her how inappropriate her behavior is and asking what in the world is wrong, she’s so busy yelling and talking angry to me she doesn’t hear a word I say. She even got so mad at one point that she hit my seat.

    Following these completely out-of-character temper tantrums and verbal lashings, she starts pacing and bouncing and can’t even stand in front of the closet long enough to focus on what clothes to change into. She can’t make even the simplest decisions and can’t stand still long enough even if she wanted to. Still not making the red dye connection (forgetting about the pie), I head to the couch to sit and ride it out.

    Monica ends up on the couch next to me, shaking and sobbing uncontrollably and asking me to make whatever is happening to her stop. Squirming and itching and rocking and crying, “Just make it stop, mom!” Finally exhausted, she lays her head on my lap in exhaustion. The whole episode lasts about an hour.

    I call my mom and share the whole incident with her. Mom asks what Monica ate, starting with the previous day. Needless to say, I had déjà vu when I got to the Eat’n Park meal (“Omigosh. The chocolate cream pie. You don’t think…?”). Sure enough, one call to Eat’n Park and a pie ingredient check proved it – the chocolate cream pie had Red 40.

    It’s certainly a challenge to avoid these dyes and many of the food preservatives I now don’t let anywhere near our mouths. I have a significant number of food allergies and have become very well educated on eating “clean” (whole, natural, organic), so I’m sure it’s easier for me to stay focused on living this way. But we absolutely cannot continue to ingest these dyes, especially children. If we could eliminate these dyes from our foods and our bodies, I am completely convinced that cancer prevalence would lower as well as the occurrence of ADHD and autism, among other cognitive, behavioral and emotional disturbances. The world would seriously be a better, much healthier place.

    Amy Kilgore is a medical writer and public relations specialist in Akron, Ohio, and mom to Monica and Chase. Living on a restricted diet for the past 15 years due to multiple food allergies, Amy is strongly dedicated to whole, natural and healthy eating as well as providing education and sharing experiences about the ill effects of processed food, additives and dyes.

      142 Responses to “Seeing Red: One Mother (A Medical Writer) Investigates Food Dyes”

      1. JillW

        Thank you! :)

        • jackie w

          It seemed like it was overnight. My 4 year old daughter developed a severe allergy to red dye starting with only hives and now going to a full body reaction and anaphylaxis that results in the need for an epi pen. This all just came to a head on Monday! I’m lost and frustrated and every single item in my house has red dye. She even got a reaction to a red marker. Finding things red dye free is very frustrating! I took her to dinner last night and after a successful dinner, she used the bathroom, washed her hands and within minutes had a severe attack, the soap in the bathroom was pink (red dye). What can I do? There has to be something done globally to prevent this! And since red dyes are becoming more of a problem, how are they still pumped into EVERYTHING! Even products like Johnson & Johnson have it in their baby wash! I’m frustrated, disgusted and at a complete loss! Please help!

        • Joy Sarjent

          My now 7 year old has an allergy to Red 40 and Blue 1. Yellows seem to be ok, but we have now cut them out. He was 6 when we figured this out. He was about to be tested for ADHD. I wish we would of figured this out sooner. He is also allergic to molds and birch tree pollen so he was on a steady stream of bendryl during the spring and fall. Which had red 40. I’m still finding things I forget to check like marshmellows, their white, why would they have blue 1. Cream cheese icing, crescent rolls all have red 40 and now hamburger, if you dont get the organic kind, I’m finding they put red jellow in it to keep the red color so it looks pretty in the store. My son would tell me constantly his brain would not let him behave. I couldn’t figure out why my 5 year old would say his brain would not let him behave.. Now he tells me if he mistakingly has a red dye that he can feel it go to his brain, and sure enough within 15 min he is hyper, will not listen to me, will say mean things. It is awful. Im greatful Kroger has a line now without artificial colors. Thank you for sharing your story, it is comforting to know your not alone in this battle with food dyes and trying to keep your child healthy.

        • Louis Rodolico

          Thank you for your article on food dyes. We were lucky enough to find out early. At first I was skeptical until I accidentally gave my son a ruby red Valentines day lollypop when he was 5. He was off the wall in an hour and it took a full day for him to get back to normal. We would be fighting BIGFARMA who’s “antidotes” for food dyes are big business.

        • Katie

          What we need to do is start a strike! Sure, lots of us refuse to buy things heavy in dies, but what good does it do if we’re on our own? We need to gather together and keep bugging companies about food dye, making it clear that if it’s got it, we won’t buy it.
          Hopefully consumer pressure will kick in some time in the future.

        • Emily

          Thank you so much for posting this. We have been giving my daughter “treats” for potty training and just happened to have skittles on-hand. We just started this week. We have also noticed increasing skin problems and behavior problems. We chalked it up to eczema and giving up her pacifier. But she just now broke out all over and is throwing a tantrum in her room. All she has had to eat recently was fish sticks (an all natural brand we have had no problems with before,) peas, and a few skittles. Like, 2. I just made the connection. And after reading about the pink antibiotics – suddenly it all makes sense! We thought maybe she was having a reaction to the medication, but it didn’t seem like the typical penicillin allergy. I plan on making an appointment with her doctor and giving her a few skittles just before the appointment. Thanks for the good tips.

        • Ellen Burka

          We recently bought a dozen of Eggland’s Best Organic Eggs from A&P. The company stamps a red “EB” on every egg. We have been buying them for years. These were different.

          On each egg was a glob of dye, rather than the EB; the machine maybe malfunctioned. Then we opened an egg and the inside of the shell and the egg itself had a significant amount of red dye. We called the company and they said red dye #40 is safe, and they would be happy to send us a new dozen.

          We recorded a video of the eggs, opening one in front of the camera. We posted it on Eggland’s Best Facebook page and on YouTube. We are enclosing a link to it here:


          Who expects red dye in their eggs? Also, the company claims the eggs are organic. How can they be called organic if they contain red dye #40 in the egg itself (they are stamped USDA Organic)?

      2. Markey

        Sounds like you are following the Feingold Program. Our family has followed it for many years and I’m so glad to see your article. Are you aware of the Feingold Assoc? http://www.feingold.org It was formed by parents back in 1976 and worked with Dr. Feingold. Now it continues his work. The org is invaluable to me.

        There is also a great Yahoo group called Feingold Program 4 Us.

        Keep up the great writing!

      3. skandij

        And forget the pie itself, even plain pie dough your roll-out yourself (like Pillsbury) has both Red40 and Yellow 5 in it. Why in the world do they need to put food coloring in pie dough! This stuff is everywhere.

        • Heather

          THANK YOU for the heads up on pie crust! My daughter has a severe hives reaction to Red 40. I am so careful, but I never thought to check my pie crusts before! I discovered the Red 40 in chocolate puddings a while ago, and in Langer’s “100%” berry juice. I check the labels on everything red, pink, purple, and orange, but I never would have thought about pie crusts.

      4. Lisa

        I am so thankful for hte Feingold Association. I could not live the artificial color, artificial flavor lifestyle without them. It has greatly improved the life of our family. I highly recommend anyone interested to check out the website – http://www.feingold.org

      5. Lisa

        Sorry – I meant to say artificial color free & artificial flavor free lifestyle.

      6. JoAnna

        In addition to artificial dyes, the ones that are driving me crazy lately are the “natural food colorings” that are being added to foods like annatto and carmine. And these are in SO many foods!!! Food companies aren’t even required to list these specifically, they just have to say something like “natural color added”. When we call companies to ask, they say that information is proprietary, like we want to steal their recipe. Explaining we’re asking because of a life-threatening food allergy doesn’t usually do any good. SOOOOOO frustrating!

      7. murph mama

        Thank you for your article! I have an allergy to all food dyes; I have a severe anaphylactic reaction when consumed orally. I’ve had this allergy since I was very young, so I learned to eat wholesome foods from an early age. I have no idea what I’m missing out on. I recommend everyone read labels ….you would be amazed at the garbage in the food that some people consume. Dyes hide in the most unsuspecting places….look at the ingredients on your package of marshmallows……you will notice blue 1. Check out the store bought pickles in your refrigerator ….blue 1 + yellow 6 = green pickles! Gross!

      8. murph mama

        I just re-read a post above about the daughter who gets hives from red 40. Considering she’s already had a reaction, its even more reason to diligently check labels of EVERYTHING! Anaphylactic reactions can get worse with each exposure.

      9. Marcia

        The link to the Yahoo Feingold group is http://health.groups.yahoo.com/group/Feingold-Program4us/

      10. Hi Amy, I’m so glad to see this post. I had the same horrifying epiphany as you at the end of this summer break. We couldn’t understand why our sweet girl was acting violent, mean, overly emotional, weepy, and out of control. She would stop listening, not finish school or home work, and even get lost a few times in schools. The violent tantrums are the worst. I started blogging about it – my site is called “Die, Food Dye!”- on Halloween day. I am happy to meet so many others who can relate. We seriously thought we’d have to have our daughter evaluated for psychological problems or ADHD and I didn’t feel like medicating her at all. I found out through my daughter’s issue that I too have a sensitivity to food dye! My husband only recently put two and two together after observing his own mood after consuming M&Ms and Fruit Rollups! Since we’ve changed our diet, we’ve all been happier! It’s like a light switch being flipped, like night and day, like Jekyll and Hyde…all those things we parents say about our dye-sensitive kids….YEP. If only the whole world knew! My goal now is to share others’ stories on my blog, and to get the word out to teachers, lawmakers, school districts and food managers, doctors, parents, nannies, and grandparents. I want synthetic dyes and flavors BANNED from the US food system! I’d love to chat with you about this, it’s my passion. Anything I can do to help, please let me know! My site is at http://www.DieFoodDye.com and I have a Facebook page so folks can connect and discuss, as well as Twitter page (@DieFoodDye) for daily dye facts and spreading awareness.

      11. Oh and for anyone whose pharm says they cannot do dye-free meds, use this site to lookup your closest “compounding pharmacy”, to have your Rx made without additives: http://ecompoundingpharmacy.com/

        • allergykids

          Thank you for this great resource.

      12. casey

        well done~

      13. Jennifer

        I need to know there is a site that lists most of the foods that have the food dye in them.

        • allergykids

          The Center for Science in the Public Interest is a great resource for those wanting to learn more about artificial dyes.

      14. Heather

        Oh my gosh, this is so scary! My oldest child has a medical condition and took “pink stuff” which is what we called the antibiotic she took for 3 years!!! She’s now on chewable tablets that are white. I can’t believe that it has red dye in it and that it’s a carcinogen! This is just beyond shocking to me and so upsetting. Thank you for sharing this article.

      15. vafeeverbemeM

        Dogs, cats, hamsters, fish, parrots – who do you prefer? Or dialect mayhap what that bottomless animals – snakes, crocodiles, lizards, monkeys?

      16. Tiffani

        Thank you for this article. My daughter also has sensitivities to artificial dyes. Last week, she was diagnosed with a seizure disorder. After only two days on the anti-seizure meds, she became extremely hyperactive, defiant, and uncontrollable. Imagine my disgust when I looked up the ingredient list of the medication to find out it contains Red #40, Yellow #6, saccharin, and sodium benzoate (chemical preservative linked to hyperactivity). I tried to switch her to the pill form of the medication, but guess what? The capsules contained the same dyes. WTH? How can these drug manufacturers get away with poisoning our children this way?

        • Katie

          Hi, my daughter is 7 and was diagnosed inDecember with seizures. She is also highly reactant to red dye. Yes we also did the same liquid Ethosuximide and are now trying the capsules which also have the dye. How did the capsules work for your child? I feel your frustration.

      17. Deitra

        For the last year we have battled with what was wrong with our daughter. Her’s was not behavior rather physical symptoms. For six weeks she cried because her stomach hurt so bad, she was unable to sleep, and many times she would throw up. Our family doctor ran some tests and eventually told me it was all in her head and told me she wasn’t in pain that she didn’t know true pain,I.e., giving birth or having a limb removed. I knew different, I know my daughter, and I knew she was in significant pain. I became aware of what triggered these painful attacks, regretfully after too many sleepless nights. She had severe ear infections during this six weeks, I questioned him if the Amoxicillin was causing this, he scoffed at me, since then I have journaled what she eats and the reactions. I have narrowed down her distress to food dyes, mostly red dye, and hope we are on the road to a normal pain-free childhood. Needless to say, I have decided the doctor we were going to is not someone I want taking care of my children.

        • Kasie

          Hello! I just stumbled upon this blog/thread while researching possible causes of my 10 year old daughter’s chronic headaches and stomach pain/vomiting. Is red dye associated with headaches and vomiting?

      18. Wow! I had no idea that the food dyes could cause such drastic, noticeable behavior changes. I have wondered if my 5 year old daughter is affected by them as well, and I have really tried to limit her intake, but I have not been doing it 100%. After reading your article I think I might start. In all of my recent research about food I have been blown away by the places you find food dyes. I was most surprised recently by kid’s toothpaste and strawberry cream cheese. I never would have thought about medication. It is criminal really, that this poison is allowed into our food products (and more).

      19. Wow! Thank you so much for the detail on what your daughter went through. I made the connection with my daughter last summer, she was five. I hadn’t actually pieced all the reactions together till just now, reading your story. The meanness and uncontrolable sobbing was very scary. We didnt know what was going on with her and even wondered if it was psychological. I somewhat doubted myself back then but told everyone she was with to avoid anything red orange and purple. She would even tell people no, she couldn’t have that candy. Things got much better for her. I have yet to talk with her new teacher because she hasn’t had any major issues in awhile. We have to pay closer attention. I’m grateful for the reminder and will look into some of the suggested pages.

      20. Thank you so much for this information. I have suspected for about 4 years now that my 6 year old has reactions to food dyes. I have an appointment with his pediatrician and am working on eliminating all dyes from our diet. Do you know if there is any sort of official “test” to have done (maybe a blood test) to confirm a suspected food dye allergy or sensitivity? My son’s father doesn’t believe me and feeds him foods with dyes when my son is in his care and I’d like to get an official test so I can protect my son (and my daughter, for that matter) from these horrible chemicals entering their bodies.

      21. Lisa

        I have been dealing with this for 6 months! My 2 year old started getting hives all over her body. The doctors NEVER suggested food dyes. She went through moths of medications and allergy testing. I have been researching for days on what could be causing her hives. Low and behold the lovely Red40. I have takes food dyes out if her diet completely and in 5 days she is completely cleared up.

      22. why don’t the food and drug just put a ban on all coloring in foods for humans and animals

      23. hope this information is correct for the web sight and inqieries

      24. Sharon

        As we speak, my son has a fever and the only Advil in the house is red :( I gave it to him the other day because he is also teething and observed behaviours that I have never seen before: not listening, running around like maniac, insomnia etc. I had heard about red dyes causing behavioural issues in some children but now I have proof. Thank you.

      25. jackie w

        It seemed like it was overnight. My 4 year old daughter developed a severe allergy to red dye starting with only hives and now going to a full body reaction and anaphylaxis that results in the need for an epi pen. This all just came to a head on Monday! I’m lost and frustrated and every single item in my house has red dye. She even got a reaction to a red marker. Finding things red dye free is very frustrating! I took her to dinner last night and after a successful dinner, she used the bathroom, washed her hands and within minutes had a severe attack, the soap in the bathroom was pink (red dye). What can I do? There has to be something done globally to prevent this! And since red dyes are becoming more of a problem, how are they still pumped into EVERYTHING! Even products like Johnson & Johnson have it in their baby wash! I’m frustrated, disgusted and at a complete loss! Please help!

      26. Bea Potter

        My granddaughter, age 12, seems to have an allergy to red foot dye. Every time we specifically note that she has eaten something red, her mouth breaks out with painful blisters, sometimes too numerous to count! She has had allergy testing by a noted allergist/immunologist who did food allergy testing onlly. These were negative. He informed us that there is no test available to specifically test for allergy to red foot dye. Is this information true? Has anyone ever heard of this symptom in relation to red food dye allergy? Would appreciate hearing from someone! This is very painful for her and painful for the family to watch and deal with! Any information will be appreciated!

        • Best Buddy/Grandma N

          Try this, not foolproof but works on my granddaughter. Just dab a little of the food on the cheek, and depending on her sensitivity you’ll get a red spot. I’ve been doing this with Sophia since she was an infant and it helps when in doubt. Saved us in restaurants. We carry most of her own food now. Probably won’t be going out to eat much anymore. Spent the night in emergency from a “natural fruit popsicle”.
          Red dye 40 Blue dye 1. First time reacting so violently. She had one earlier in the day and was fine. DON’T TRUST ANYTHING READ THE FULL LABEL FIRST.
          I’m still very shaken by this. She lights my life.

      27. Misti

        I am so glad that I have found others that have experienced this with their children. My 4 year old son has had very violent temper tantrums and we’ve been to the doctor and even a counselor to try to diagnose any problems. He has been through many blood tests, a sleep/brain scan,etc. It wasn’t until I was talking to a mom at my oldest sons sporting events, I was in near tears explaining to her the problems and our concerns. She said “it’s simple, take away Red 40 and you will see a world of a difference.” Our ped had never mentioned it to us, but without contacting her my husband and I decided it was worth a try. Overnight it was like we had a different child. There are times that we don’t think about it and just like earlier today, I let him have a strawberry slushie and about an hour later I was regretting my decision and we faced a huge melt down. We have only been doing this for a few months and there are times I don’t think to check for the red dye in ingredients and we then deal with the aftermath. We have talked and I think we are now going to remove Yellow 5 from our diets as well. Good luck to you all.

      28. Martha

        hi, could you please name foods that have it? Or is simple, like all candies and junk food? We have three year old daughter that is acting like yours was. When she was two we were looking forward to her third birthday but most of the days it feels like it just gets worst.need some help

        • Joe

          Nearly all “candy” from the supermarket has red 40 in it. Don’t trust ANYTHING around valentines day or easter (they make every frickin’ thing either red or pink). I generally only trust chocolate products, but ONLY ones that I’ve had experience with. Never buy a boxed cake or brownies and definitely don’t trust other’s to check for you. Believe it or not, even WHITE canned frosting can have red 40 in it!

          Our son had a rough go, we found out early on with him, but luckily he pulled through it. He had a reaction to something, not sure what anymore, but it gave him a horrible rash and the worst diarhea ever. Well, of course the doctor recommended to keep him hydrated to get pediasure. Of course that was FULL of red 40. Then someone suggested jello juice (making juice using jello mix, don’t know who suggested this, but I was away and my wife desperate for anything tried it) . Of course he just kept getting worse. At some point we noticed that he was having a reaction to the banana baby food we were giving him which of course made us think it was a banana thing (still hadn’t made the connection to the dyes) . Eventually we noticed the red 40 and immediately removed it from his diet completely (as much as we knew at the time). It has taken years for us to develop the discipline and knowledge of what can and can not be trusted. Also, make sure you check from manufacturer to manufacturer as pillsbury dough has red 40 in their pizza crust, while some don’t.

          We steer clear of candy coated things and try our best to keep him away from it the best we can. Would rather not let him have candy at all, but he’s a kid and not all candy is bad and we enjoy it too from time to time. Stinks that 3/4 of his halloween candy ultimately gets thrown out or given away. Harder to tell him that purple has red 40 in it as well as most orange colored things. Pink and Red are easy to explain, but trying to explain why he can’t have a store bought chocolate chip cookie or something with white frosting gets frustrating to say the least. (Honestly I don’t trust anything that doesn’t list the ingredients on the individual package like suckers, so I do my best to avoid suckers like the plague at banks and other places that have suckers to be “nice” to the kids)

          Done venting, but hopefully what I’ve said will help you (or more likely someone else since your post is quite old, you likely know most of this already from trial and error).

      29. Karen

        Thank you Robyn for raising awareness of this issue. So many other food allergy sites won’t include chemical reactions as allergies. As you read above though, you’ll see that one child even has an epi-pen for this. We came close to going to the ER last summer after a “bomb pop” (red).
        Let me tell you about the reaction. My DS had two friends over and my daughter brought them all to the ice cream man. She wasn’t watching as her brother ordered the offending treat. Within 10 minutes, he no longer wanted to be at our pool and was acting strange. This was when I found out about the red treat. We went home and I sent all the boys out to play. Within 10 more minutes, my DS was outside screaming at everybody uncontrollably to the extent that everybody had to go home and my DS was sent up to his room. When I called him down for dinner, his lips were swollen and he was scratching. I lifted his shirt and hives covered his entire trunk. In the next few days, he had scratches and scabs from scratching, dried up hives and still had swollen lips. People were asking what happened to him…..and of course my doctors didn’t believe me:(

      30. kelly

        red dye 40 messes with my stomach like crazy if i eat lots of pasta sauce or pepperoni like a double pepperoni pizza or like last night i ate bacon bit not knowing they had the dye i have gas that light then the next morning and most of the day stomach cramps and diarrhea that is pink if i don’t have diarrhea and depending how mush dye i had it can pink or red i did not know this until last year when i had red velvet cake that is loaded with the dye i try not to eat the dye if i drink grape soda the dye in it has about the same effect

      31. I am a mother of two with nine year old who has some pretty sever food allergies…she was diagnosed with a shellfish allergy when she was five and then a year later she developed a red dye allergy. One thing we were not aware of is that in some meat processing red dye is used to make pepperoni, salami, corned beef, pastrami…cured meat basically. She ended up in the ER because we were not aware.
        These last few years have been very trying for my daughter…she just wants to be like everyone else and eat and drink like everyone else and have all the treats that they have. She understands that the products out there are potentially dangerous to her…but she just want to be like everyone else. It doesn’t help that she seems to be developing new allergies to go along with these current ones.

      32. Nicole

        My husband was diagnosed with ADHD as a child and now we have 3 boys of our own. Our oldest is 5 and started kindergarten this year. By the way he acts I feel that he too has ADHD. However, before he started school his doc wouldn’t look into it without that second opinion from a teacher (since kids will act entirely different for their parents than others). At first his teais her wasn’t too concerned. Yes, he is extremely hyper but it’s not interfering with his school work and learning. Last year around this time he developed an ear infection. His dad was gone training for the Army at this time. He was put on amoxicillan for the ear infection and his attitude changed. Not only was he hyper but he seemed to become a bit ‘bipolar’ and was very defiant.
        i chalked it up as him missing his dad and not completely understanding why he was gone. His dad is gone again for more training and he got put on the amoxicillan again for impetigo. He’s been on it since Saturday and all week at school he has been misbehaving. Yesterday his teacher said that he was “completely out of control”. Today he was worse. I don’t know if it’s the red dye or the fact that his dad is gone, or perhaps both? Should I speak to his doc to change the medication for the remainder of his 10 antibiotic?

      33. Sara Akin

        Wow, this describes my 2 year old’s situation perfectly! We discovered a few months ago that he had sensitivities to Nitrates and Red 40 (sleep problems, terrible tantrums and aggressive behavior) so we cut them out of his diet and immediately began seeing results! And this was all a collaborative effort between my mom and mother-in-law and I -our doctor acted positively incredulous when we told him what great results we had after cutting these things out of his diet. Only fast-forward to the present, my son has a terrible cold and ear infection so I unwittingly gave him the pink amoxicillon we were prescribed. Three crazy sleepless nights later it finally dawned on me – that medicine is PINK! It took several calls to the doctor, urgent care where we’d been treated and the pharmacy before it was confirmed -yes, it was Red 40 in there! I can’t believe how ridiculous this all is – and how non-committal and unconcerned the medical staff are when I bring up my concerns!

      34. Bobert

        I am allergic to red dye40 but for me all it does is make me go insanely hyper and uncontrollably run around until I run into a door knob and get knocked out or if someone sits on me

      35. Strider

        I and my wife have mild reactions to these dyes. My son gets hives. There is no reason these dyes should be in our food supply and in our pharmaceuticals. Everyone on this site shoud be writing to their state representative, congress person, and senator to educate them of this problem.

      36. Joseph

        In Europe, artificial ingredients (especially Red 40) are not recommended for consumption by children. Some places even ban artificial colours.
        If you have visited/lived in Europe, then Congratulations.

        The EU has regulations that restrict the use of any harmful chemicals in foods. Once a product is introduced to the European market, any synthetic ingredients are replaced with natural ones. This is done not only to please worried parents, but also to prevent getting slapped with a warning label (see Paragraph 4).
        Take the UK Froot Loops, for example. For a good reason, they have three flavours instead of six, because Kellogg’s was unable to source natural colours for the other three. They don’t use any partially-hydrogenated vegetable oil, and they have natural flavours. They also have more sugar.

        On the other hand, there are still some products in Europe that have artificial chemicals. The good news is, they have warning labels. This is not so in the US.
        Even GMOs are labelled in Europe, making it easier to tell.

      37. Juliet

        Costco’s version of Zyrtec has it, as does Benadryl. Why is the world do we have to have dyes in allergy medicine? Another hidden source is toothpaste.


      38. Elizabeth Creasy

        Same exact reactions to dye for my son. He is 2yrs old. We have now become a dye free diet. Sad to see that it is in almost everything. I was going to make instant vanilla pudding, has dye in it. So made my own from scratch. He had codeine fir a surgery at 1yr old and it didn’t slow him down, made him extremely hyper. Clear Tylenol, clear benadryl, clear juices now.

      39. Zoe

        I was at a football game and my brother poured me a handful of skittles. Most of them were red. I popped them in my mouth and began chewing and moments later my throat constricted and swelled and my air supply was cut off. I was gasping and making a horrible rasping sound because I couldn’t get any air. Seconds later I was able to breathe but my throat still felt swollen and I immediately stopped eating candy. It is three days later and I still have a headache, slight stomachache, and the symptoms of a cold. I have been coughing and my throat still does not feel back to normal yet. My aunt and uncle, who are doctors, said “Oh, yes, that sounds like an allergic reaction” when I told them, and I had already suspected as much. Now I am determined to stay away from dyes just in case next time my reaction is worse.

        I don’t understand why EVERYTHING has to have dye in it. I was diagnosed with ADD, ADHD, and anxiety when I was little, and am now thinking it may have something to do with food dyes.

      40. Robin

        Thanks for the great article. My daughter gets a horrible rash and severe mood swings from dyes. Our biggest problem are the Yellows, which are in everything!. Pillsbury is banned in our house, pie crusts, crescent rolls, grands..all loaded with yellow dye, not to mention all their cake products. We shop at natural food stores now and every time there is a school party I bring in special treats and candies so she doesn’t feel left out.

      41. I had been recommended this site via our uncle. My business is no more specified irrespective of whether this submit is composed by him because no one else realize these correct around my own difficulties. You will be remarkable! Thank you!

      42. Very intresting tips. Thanks for sharing

      43. Nancy

        I am 78 yrs old. On and off since childhood I’ve had allergies in the form of atopic dermititis where I would get horrible rashes. One by one I found what foods to avoid. Then, some yrs ago I suddenly broke out again. This time, not on my body but on my face. My eye lids were swollen and itchy. After a couple of days I realized the only “new” thing in my diet were vitamin pills which were red in color.. That’s when I discovered that I was allergic to dye, whereas before I thought it was only food such as too much sugar or chocolate, etc. causing me problems.

        Recently, after at least twenty rash free years, I broke out again. It had been so long since I reacted to the dye in those vitamins that I had completely forgotten about it so, it took me awhile to remember and realize that my HCTZ (blood pressure medicine) had food dye it in. At the same time, I broke out on a different part of my body on which I had used a “wet wipe”. I checked the label and found that they had, not food dye, but aloe which I am also allergic to.

        I had bought the wet wipes because it said “hypo-allergetic” on the label but, if you do a search on the net, you’ll find many people allergic to aloe.

        There are wipes that do not have aloe and there are medicines without dye. Mom to mom wipes do not have aloe but, to be sure, check the label because some brands, such as “Huggies” make wipes with and/or without aloe.

        As for medications, I found out that Walgreens has HCTZ capsules which do not have dye in them the way the tablets do. Checking with my insurance company, I also found out that Walgreens has a “compound” pharmacy affiliated with it. In other words, if there’s a medicine you can’t take because of the dye, you can tell your doctor to specify a “no dye” compound on the prescription pad and Walgreens will have it made for you. If your doctor does not specify “capsules” or “no dye”, the pharmacy may give you whatever they have on hand. You also have to tell your pharmacy to put “allergic to dye” on your records.

        When I told CVS pharmacy to put that in my record, they gave me medicine with dye in it anyway. (amoxicilin) I reminded them that I was allergic to dye and that I had taken amoxicillin before that was dye free. The pharmacist just looked at me and said nothing not caring or paying attention to what I said and refused to find out if there was a dye free version. For that reason, even tho’ CVS is closer, I will only go to Walgreens who, when I told them I needed to switch from HCTZ tablets to dye free capsules, they immediately faxed my doctor & had the capsules ready as soon as my doctor verified my allergy.

        Now what I want is to start a petition or sign a petition, if one is already started, to get the FDA to remove dyes from all medications and food and also to prohibit things such as wet wipes to call themselves hypo-allergenic when they have aloe in them. Please let me know if anyone has petitions going or want to start one. I also want to know what the process is to start a petition if one is not already started. Is there a group I can join that is trying to get these things done? Thanks


        • Crystal C

          Thanks for sharing Nancy. I too am having skin issues on my neck, face and scalp, biopsy ruled out psoriasis but said atopic/ contact dermatitis and eczema. I too am wondering about dyes. I am starting to see a pattern when my 4 year old has red dye, and maybe mommy and daddy need to go off of them too.

      44. Nancy

        Walgreens sells “Waldryl” which is the same medicine as Benedryl (diphenhydromine) but has a dye free version. Look for a red package clearly labeled “dye free”. Ironic that the package is red but it does make it easy to spot on the shelf.


      45. Lynn

        My daughter became highly allergic to Red 40 at the age of 21! She has probably always been sensitive, but now breaks out in massive hives even when washing with soap containing the dye. She has to read every label before eating anything! Apple toaster strudel, yep red dye, Gedney’s “home made” recipe pickles, yes ma’am contains dye, etc. etc. etc. There is no test for Red dye allergy that is of any use. Current tests throw high levels of false results. You know your kids, if you suspect dye is the culprit, it’s easy to test. Now that my daughter is (mostly) dye free she says her moods are more even, she can concentrate better and just feels better.

      46. Katy

        Wow. This is so much to take in. Thank you to everyone for your personal testimonies! I’m just starting my research on this topic. Does anyone know if these reactions were right after having this dye? Is it long term? How long does it stay in your system? My daughter has angry reactions to common situations that shouldn’t warrant them. But her anger goes in waves. For weeks she’ll be her normal self, then all of a sudden she goes into a whole new person it seems. I’m going to try knocking out the dyes and see how it goes…

      47. Dorothea Duenow

        Just wanted to give another story. My son had his first reaction to red dye when he was four. He drank a red gatorade, and within hours was covered with hives and began urinating every fifteen minutes. This lasted ten days. Since then, he’s had hives two more times after accidental exposures to red dye, including this last Valentine’s day.
        Frustrated mom

      48. Great website you have here but I was curious about
        if you knew of any community forums that cover the same topics discussed here?
        I’d really love to be a part of community where I can get comments from other knowledgeable people that share the same interest.
        If you have any recommendations, please let me know. Kudos!

      49. Christina

        I have been allergic to Red #4 or Carmine. It is very common in food, medicine, make-up, just to name a few. I started out like your daughter, however now at the tender age of 40 I carry a bag of medication (histamine blockers, epi pen, steroids, etc.) with me everywhere, just so I can make it to the ER if I do ingest the red dye. It is scary and irritating. I really wish they could leave the dye out of food.

      50. Vicki Takacs

        You know one way to actually go about getting something done about removing this poison from well, not just food, would be to research how other countries got rid of it. I never understand why we never bother to emulate a country that has already gone through the same thing and solved it. It’s amazing to me that China will not buy our GMO crops, Monsanto is just plain not allowed in some countries, and Japan does think enough of it’s citizens in at least one respect as they allow no artificial sweeteners and only Stevia. I promise you that you will find the manufacturers of these dyes have paid the FDA and government officials or lobbyists.

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