28 answers

Red Dye #40 - Lutherville Timonium,MD

Recently I have found that my daughter has an adverse reaction to Red Dye #40. Her reaction includes hyper activity, restlessness, aggressiveness and all of the things you would tend to categorize as the "TERRIBLE TWOS."

My daughter is two and when I took the red dye out of her diet (which included fruit snacks, lollipops, doritos, cheetos, danimals yogurts and more!) she has been a much calmer and even keeled child.

My reason for writing this is one, to make others aware of this reaction...and two, to ask if anyone else has seen this in their children. The food manufacturers continue to use this dye in a lot of foods knowing the adverse reaction it has on a lot of children, but there are much safer alternatives to dying our foods which would not cause this reaction (beet juice, paprika, etc.).

If anyone has anything to share, please let me know. Thanks!

5 moms found this helpful

What can I do next?

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Years and years ago, we discovered that the red dye in hot dogs and ketchup were causing my little sister to get migraines. (Hot dogs and ketchup were a staple of her diet at the age of seven or so!) Once any foods with dye were taken out of her diet, the migraines stopped.

Good Luck,

1 mom found this helpful

Hi S.,
My 5 yo son also gets very hyper but it is not just the red dye,it seems to be all allergy/cold medicines. Do you have any suggestions? His teachers are ready to hang him by his toes. I am desperate.

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YOU ARE RIGHT ON!!! Congrats to you for recognizing the culprit! My son, and youngest daughter have the very same reaction to this ingredient, and I have been beside myself as to why they must continue to use this when it has ABSOLUTELY NO NUTRITIONAL VALUE. I have written to General Mills & Kelloggs about cereals/cereal bars that would make great snacks for my kids--but they contain red dye or ANNATTO (watch for that ingredient too). POPs cereal & milk bar -- a YELLOW product -- contains red dye! Candy corn often has RD. Wheat Thins have RD and the lists go on and on. MOTHERS UNITE!! Lets campaign to make the manufacturers use alternative ingredients if they MUST color our food for us to eat it! It speaks poorly of our society if we can't eat a food that isn't pretty!
Aggressive, defiant, hyper behavior are common reactions to this dye. I have even heard of children who lost bladder control as a reaction to this.
Years ago they stopped making red M&Ms for this reason. It's hard to read every label and find all the 'red dye' ingredients... grocery shopping can take hours until you learn the foods to avoid. I suppose my kids are healthier for not eating some of the junk that contains this ingredient.
S.-thanks again for bringing this to the forefront for other Moms. It is a real issue and all kids should avoid this!
Get online and write to the customer service depts of all the food companies, and lets demand that they leave the COLOR out! It won't change the taste or the nutritional value.
thanks again,
S. J

3 moms found this helpful

This is published medical fact that food additives contribute to hyperactivity in children. This was published in The Lancet's November, 3, 2007 issue. For the abstract read here: http://linkinghub.elsevier.com/retrieve/pii/S014067360761...

While it doesn't specifically mention Red 40, my autistic stepson has had a history of problems with it, but my girls, who are healthy have not. I try to stay away from artificial everything, but it's really hard unless you're growing your own food and cooking everything from scratch. So, I avoid the really bad stuff like artificial dyes and high fructose corn syrup (Don't get me started on the not so sweet surprise people are really in for when they do their research) Why does our government let these things be sold as food? One word... Money. The Feingold diet recommended by some of the other moms is great if you're having consistent behavior problems.

2 moms found this helpful

Those dyes are pertroleum based...all of them, not just the red dye. There has been extensive research that shows that the artificial flavors and colors that are added into foods can cause a myriad of symptoms. IT has also been suggested that these additives are what has increased the number of children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Thirty years ago, there were few "hyper" kids in a classroom. And, there were fewer artificial ingredients in foods.

You can learn more about this issue and the junk they put in our food by visiting www.feingold.org. You can also order a diet program which is free of all these additives. Hope this helps. Good luck. Traci

2 moms found this helpful

My 17 month old seems to be allergic to Yellow #5, apparently the most allergenic food dye. She developed short-lived hives on her face after eating Kraft MacNCheese and yellow american cheese (they smeared on her face). Thankfully there was no systemic reaction, but we are staying away from food dyes. We shop mostly at Trader Joes and try to buy as much organic food as we can afford. There are plenty of kid foods and snack foods without these ingredients - you just have to read all labels. One great treat I discovered is Popsicle brand Dora and Scribblers popsicles. They are the only ones I've seen that are made with natural colors and flavors and my kids love them.

Please report your child's reactions to the Center for Science in the Public Interest. They are a food-advocacy organization trying to get these additives banned. Here is their message and link to report reactions:

Is your child's behavior worsened by synthetic food dyes? If so, I need your help.
In June, CSPI asked the Food and Drug Administration to eliminate synthetic dyes, such as Yellow 5 and Red 40, from the food supply. Alarming new evidence shows these chemicals cause behavioral problems, such as hyperactivity, in some children.
If your child's behavior has been affected by food dyes or has improved from eliminating synthetic colorings from his or her diet, please file a report with us about your experience here:
In the U.K. and elsewhere in Europe, most multinational food companies are using natural colorings but continue to use synthetic dyes for American products. For example, in the U.K. the syrup in a McDonald's strawberry sundae is colored with actual strawberries. In the U.S., McDonald's uses a coal-tar-based dye, Red 40. Similarly, Nutri-Grain cereal bars, Starburst candies and Betty Crocker cake have safe, natural colorings in the U.K. but synthetic food dyes in the U.S.
The reports you file at www.cspinet.org/fooddyes will be sent periodically to the Food and Drug Administration, which regrettably continues to deny synthetic dyes cause behavioral problems in children. Unless we contact you asking permission to do otherwise, your name and contact information will be kept confidential.
Thank you for your help on this urgent issue. Please feel free to forward this message to parents of young children.

1 mom found this helpful


Years and years ago, we discovered that the red dye in hot dogs and ketchup were causing my little sister to get migraines. (Hot dogs and ketchup were a staple of her diet at the age of seven or so!) Once any foods with dye were taken out of her diet, the migraines stopped.

Good Luck,

1 mom found this helpful

None of my kids has had a bad reaction the dye, but a close neighbor had a pretty bad allergy to it, and she was actually hospitalized the first time she was exposed!
My niece also has bad reactions to Red Dye #40. One time I can remember clearly, she had a purple snowcone and about 15 minutes later, she started acting like she was "high". She stared into space, didn't make any sense when she spoke and even licked my son's head!! Then she ran around like a crazy person! It was disturbing, to say the least. My sis-in-law said she acted like that every time she ate something with that dye in it!
Pretty gross stuff, if you ask me!

My sister swore the red dye had the same effect on her daughter. She cut it out and said her daughter was like a new child. Glad to know she's not alone.


Yes. Check out the Feingold Program at www.feingold.org. Going on that program turned my child into a child I could actually love. We started it 3 years ago when my son was 5 years old. My older child is totally unaffected by food dyes and additives but it make a world of difference for my younger son. As it turns out he also has a salicylate sensitivity - which I discovered through the Feingold program. What a surprise! I felt proud that I fed my kids good, nutritional food but it turns out that they affected my younger son just as much as the food dyes. So while he was happily eating strawberries, peppers, cucumbers, tomatoes, oranges, apples and berries it was having a bad effect on his body. Who would have guessed it!?

I shop at Wegman's and Whole Foods. It helps be to avoid a lot of the undesirable additives they put into food. I cook from scratch a lot and buy fewer processed foods. I take a long time to read labels. I will supply his own food - substituting as closely as possible - when his group is eating food (birthday celebrations at schools, church and vacation bible school snacks, etc....). It does involve work and vigilance but it is so worth it.

I also belong to a food coop. We order our food as a group from a company that supplies food free of dyes, additives and preservatives. We are able to get discounts that we would not be able to get buying the stuff individually. Many of us are in the same boat - most of us have some type of restrictions in our diet.

Could you possibly send me or supply the list you have of foods containing Red Dye # 40?

I had the same problem diagnosed for my son when he was three(now 17).If you look at the list of foods that you have had to restrict from your daughter, you will notice that you have also removed a LOT of sugar, as well as other chemicals used for food preservation and flavor enhancers. I found that sticking with a whole food diet worked great for my son. Red dye is not the only thing that can poison a child's delicate system!
Best wishes, S.

I recently discovered that my son who is 7 turns into a completely different child when he consumes anything with red dye. As much as I love and adore him it is almost impossible to be around him when he has consumed anything with red dye. He is loud, obnoxious and aggressive within 30 minutes. I used to think this was an old wives tale until it happened to us. Sugar makes him somewhat active but there is a huge difference in a few sweets vs. anything with red dye.

hi S.,

the feingold diet has been wonderful for our family, especially my nine year old son. the diet removes all artificial colors, dyes, artificial flavors, some preservatives, and salicylates (occur naturally in some foods). when my son is not eating foods with the above items, his behavior and ability to focue is greatly improved. when there is a slip, we see a huge change - not for the better. you can go on their web site www.feingold.org for more info. good luck


My son is the same way. He started this when he was 2.5. I never in a million years thought that the reason for my son behaving as you described above would be due to a dye in his food. But after speaking with a good friend and eliminating it from his diet he is a different kid. He is now 4.5. He is still all boy but we do not suffer from the frequent dealings with this. There is only 1 thing he gets with Red #40 and that is his vitamin. But it is a small amount and it doesn't seem to bother him. But give him koolaide, look out cause here comes evil Ryne. I don't understand either why they do take the dye's completely off the shelf either. I am sure there are other alternatives. But we have changed a few things we eat and find other things such as all natural or organic. But just know you are not alone. I thought I was too until now. Good luck!

Hi S. - My son had the same reaction when he was little - he's now 26 years old. I didn't know what was wrong, but he was bouncing off the walls with hyperactivity. And then I started experimenting with what he was eating and we narrowed it down to red dye.
Good luck to your continued efforts!

Hi S.,
My 5 yo son also gets very hyper but it is not just the red dye,it seems to be all allergy/cold medicines. Do you have any suggestions? His teachers are ready to hang him by his toes. I am desperate.

I guess we are lucky to have a Trader Joe's, Amish Market and Whole Foods near us that have snack foods that don't have dye. They also have whole grain versions of popular snack foods as well as without High Fructose Corn Sweetener and Trans Fats. But I'm a little surprised at the list of foods in the original post. Even if we couldn't find the healthy alternative - we wouldn't buy the original version. We just don't have that stuff in our diet anymore. We'ne really cleaned up our act since having our son. Maybe it's my husband's nutrition research from having been a personal trainer. But there's so much garbage food out there I would never put in MY body - let alone my kid's. It's concentrated, man-made, processed food - going into a tiny little developing body. The dye is the least of the problem. This food is high in calorie and bad fat - and totally devoid of nutrition. It's the stuff that this current childhood obesity and diabetes are built on. Health Guru Jack Lalanne said "If man makes it - don't eat it" He is a bit extreme but he IS in his 90's without any health problems. Don't take my word for it - go to this link http://www.westonaprice.org and click on Children's Nutrition and then click on Modern Diseases, scrolling down to Processed foods that cause cancer. I think as Moms we trust our food producers too much. Like - our government wouldn't let us eat that stuff if it were bad for us. But just like when we take a sick kid to the Dr - we act as their advocate because they trust us. So, too, do they trust us on what is healthy nutrition. I know that NO MOM would choose something bad for their child once they know what that is. Before my husband found this info. I thought some of those foods were OK - but now that I know - I don't feel good about them anymore. With knowledge there is power. That is what is so great about these boards. I hope this info helps somebody. Please read about the research that was done by Mr Price around the world with indigenous populations that led him to this nutrition program - it's eye opening. S.

If it helps, you may want to consider buying organic foods or natural foods at Trader Joes. Organic foods are not able to have artificial dyes. I realize it can be daunting to take out red m&ms, fruit loops, etc. Believe it or not, Europe has banned red #40. She's not abnormal, it bothers lots of children. I really wish they would just eliminate that.

Red dye is a huge problem with behavioral issues in children and removing it from your child's diet is great. I would suggest going for more organic foods because they do not contain artificial dyes of any kind. My girls love organic lolipops!

My son did a science experiment in 5th grade with mice. He fed some food dye and some not. It turned out the mice with food dye were a lot more aggressive with each other than the ones without. We are told they are safe and non-toxic, but clearly that is not true!

Hello S.,

This is for you and anyone else who reads this. Not only should you all be worried about the Red Dye #40, also be worried about the cleaning products that you are using in your home. Those products have alot of toxins that are harmful. Please visit my website www.livetotalwellness.com/P.. This website gives some help insight into what cause most of the health issues today. Also visit www.melaleuca.com. Take the guided tour and see what these awesome products have to offer. I look forward to sharing this awesom information with all of you.

I changed all of my household products to Melaleuca 7 months ago and my family hasn't suffered with allergies since.

Wow! How did you find this out? My little one is just over 2 and is usually a very laid back child but every now and then she gets all goofy on me like she's going through the "terrible two's" and it just happens out of the blue. So I just looked at the ingredients in the snacks that I give her and ALL of them have Red Dye #40 listed. UGH! I am going to try only giving her foods without this ingredient and see how she does. Any suggestions on snacks that you have found without this stuff in it? Thanks for the enlightening info!

when I was a kid my brother would break out every time we drank red KoolAid. No information was available at that time (early 80's) like it is now, but my mom cut out the red dye and he was fine. I have to go with the philosophy on food of: if it looks like it did when it was picked it's ok to eat. In other words if it looks like corn then it's acceptable. That cuts a lot out of our diet but saves us a ton on Dr. bills......

As a teacher for 12 years, I saw this all the time. Food manufacturers will not stop using it in their products until there is a loud enough uproar, a protest in the form of not buying their products, and/or a lawsuit filed to force the red dye out of their products. They are well aware of the reactions the dye has on children.
Educating others who will be in contact with your child (daycare, sitters, teachers, relatives, etc) about her STRICT "must-not-eat" list is very important. Don't assume that others will know which foods are on this list -- you will need to type it up & hand it out to them, updating as necessary. I found that it makes more of an impact if you refer to it as an "allergy" -- people are more aware of an allergic reaction and therefore more likely to listen to that than they are if it is just a "reaction" or a list of "probably shouldn't have" foods.
Another thing to be aware of is that she may never grow out of this -- definitely don't assume that because she is of a certain age that it will be better. The reaction will most likely be there, but it may be in a different form (ie: teenagers having a mood swing, then realizing it was caused by a preventable food dye reaction).
Good luck!

Hi S.,
My daughter is 13 years old and she was allergic to red food dye when she was younger. Her reaction was hives. The poor baby first got them at about 15 months old and it took about 6 months, and multiple doctor visits, to figure it out. We thought it was because I had just stopped nursing her 3 months before. She did eventually "grow out" of the allergy at about 5 years old. Her kindergarten class had popcicles and sure enough, Kylie ate one. But she didn't have the reaction. We slowly added a few things back into her diet (fruit snacks, etc.) and she never had another hive.
I hope little Grace grows out of her allergy too. All though I know it really is better to not have the food dye.
Good Luck,

When I read your post, I can commesurate because I did not know the affects of Red #40 or any other dyes until my son had a similar reaction to Cherry Pop Tarts! He can not tolerate red, blue or yellow dyes. So, now I am a label checker. I am glad you put this post out there because people need to know about the affects it has on their kids. There is a popular book out regarding dyes and their affects by Ben Feingold that is really informative.

My 3 year old has the same reaction to red, yellow and blue dye. Which is in almost everything commercial for snacks and even cereals. We buy almost all organics, but I had no idea that even plain cereals contained yellow dye and such. We now shop only at trader joes and know that the items are almost always dye free. My daughter is still a whirlwind but at least now it is s dye free one and less insane :)When she would eat things with the dye she would experience frustration and her attention level was out of control. It is easier to manage now.

I wish more parents did some type of research as to what their children were eating I tell my 13&7yr old. all the time about eating or drinking products w/ red dye in them. I know they think I'm just trying to keep them from having tasty treats but this dye really affects them. Especially when you have a child that has ADHA and this dye really affects her. I never thought about it being present in doritos & cheetos. So I'm glad you bought that to my atention. These companies are not going put beet juices or anything else that isn't harmful to children because it's cheaper to put the Red Dye #40. Keep me posted if you find out any more info,I will do likewise. I'm going to take the time out to do more research. Thank you

I have a friend at work who reacts this same way to red dye. She is like a cat on catnip if she has any (wired, talks a million miles a minute, hyper). The only way they figured out that she was allergic to it is because her dad is too. Information is power!!


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