Possible Food Allergy

Updated on August 05, 2008
M.H. asks from Latrobe, PA
10 answers

My question has to due with a red dye allergy. At my baby's first b-day party, she had a smash cake. On the cake was her name written with red icing. When I was cleaning her off after she had her cake, I noticed a rash covering her face and stomach. She broke out in a rash imediately after having the cake and has had cake before with no problems. I also know she is not allergic to nuts, eggs, or milk. The rash went away within the hour but now I am afraid to give her anything remotely red. Does anyone have any advice or am I worrying about nothing?

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So What Happened?

I wanted to thank you all for the advice. Being as my daughter has eaten all of the possible allergy triggers but red dye and has had no reactions in the past, we were told by the doctor that would most likely be the cause. After reading the advice and talking to the doctor, we are just going to avoid red dye in the future and take it from there. Again, thanks.

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answers from Pittsburgh on

I'd call the ped. They can do 2 different tests to determine what caused it. It sounds like an allergic reaction, but not severe thankfully. But reactions can get worse each time exposed so it is good to be cautious. It's just good to know.

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answers from Philadelphia on

M., I have an article I want you to read. it is long, but will give you info about food dyes. There are nine listed in the article which are know to cause hyperactivity and behavior issues in children. They are also the ones that children and adults are commonly allergic to. For more info about how to feed your family more healthy and without food dyes and preservatives, please contact me. Here is the article...

For Immediate
June 2, 2008

Related Links:
CSPI Petition to FDA on Food Dyes, 2008

Schab-Trinh Meta-Analysis, 2004

CSPI's Diet, ADHD, and Behavior, 2008

CSPI's Parent's Guide

Letter to Members of Congress, 2008

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CSPI Urges FDA to Ban Artificial Food Dyes Linked to Behavior Problems

Dyes Called "Secret Shame" of Food Industry and Regulators

Yellow 5, Red 40, and six other widely used artificial colorings are linked to hyperactivity and behavior problems in children and should be prohibited from use in foods, according to the nonprofit Center for Science in the Public Interest. The group today formally petitioned the Food and Drug Administration to ban the dyes, several of which are already being phased out in the United Kingdom. The other six dyes are Blue 1, Blue 2, Green 3, Orange B, Red 3, and Yellow 6.

Synthetic food dyes have been suspected of disrupting children's behavior since the 1970s, when Dr. Ben Feingold, a San Francisco allergist, reported that his patients improved when their diets were changed. Numerous controlled studies conducted over the next three decades in the United States, Europe, and Australia proved that some children’s behavior is worsened by artificial dyes, but the government did nothing to discourage their use and food manufacturers greatly increased their reliance on them.

A comprehensive 2004 meta-analysis of the medical literature concluded that artificial dyes affect children's behavior, and two recent studies funded by the British government found that dyes (as well as the preservative sodium benzoate) adversely affect kids' behavior. Unlike most previous studies, those British studies tested children in the general population, not children whose parents suspected they were sensitive to dyes. As a result, the British government is successfully pressuring food manufacturers to switch to safer colorings.

"We spent years trying to figure out the cause of our son's behavioral problems," said Judy Mann, of Silver Spring, Md. "For a long time, we thought the culprit was sugar. But when we started carefully monitoring everything he ate we were able to see that artificial dyes and preservatives were the problem. Since eliminating them the change has been positively stunning."

"The continued use of these unnecessary artificial dyes is the secret shame of the food industry and the regulators who watch over it," said CSPI executive director Michael F. Jacobson. "The purpose of these chemicals is often to mask the absence of real food, to increase the appeal of a low-nutrition product to children, or both. Who can tell the parents of kids with behavioral problems that this is truly worth the risk?"

Americans' exposure to artificial food dyes has risen sharply. According to the FDA, the amount of food dye certified for use was 12 milligrams per capita per day in 1955. In 2007, 59 mg per capita per day, or nearly five times as much, was certified for use. Dyes are used in countless foods and are sometimes used to simulate the color of fruits or vegetables. Kraft's Guacamole Dip gets its greenish color not from avocados (there are almost none) but from Yellow 5, Yellow 6, and Blue 1. The blue bits in Aunt Jemima Blueberry Waffles are blue thanks to Red 40 and Blue 2, not real blueberries.

Artificial dyes are particularly prevalent in the sugary cereals, candies, sodas, and snack foods pitched to kids. For instance, General Mills' Fruit Roll-ups and Fruit-by-the-Foot flavored snacks get their fruity colors from Yellow 5, Yellow 6, Red 40, and Blue 1. General Mills' Fruity Cheerios, Lucky Charms, and Trix also contain several of the problematic dyes, as do Kellogg's Froot Loops and Apple Jacks and Post's Fruity Pebbles.

More than a dozen American varieties of Kraft's Oscar Meyer Lunchables kids' meals contain artificial food dyes, but not so the British versions. Starburst Chews, Skittles, and M&M candies—all Mars products—contain the full spectrum of artificial colors in the U.S., but not in the U.K., where the company uses natural colorings. Even foods that aren't particularly brightly colored can contain dyes, including several varieties of macaroni and cheese and mashed potatoes. Betty Crocker's Au Gratin "100% Real" Potatoes are partly not real, colored as they are with Yellow 5 and Yellow 6, both derived from coal tar. Remarkably, in Britain, the color in McDonald's strawberry sauce for sundaes actually comes from strawberries; in the U.S. it comes from Red 40.

"The science shows that kids' behavior improves when these artificial colorings are removed from their diets and worsens when they’re added to the their diets," said Dr. David Schab, a psychiatrist at Columbia University Medical Center, who conducted the 2004 meta-analysis with his colleague Dr. Nhi-Ha T. Trinh. "While not all children seem to be sensitive to these chemicals, it's hard to justify their continued use in foods—especially those foods heavily marketed to young children."

Americans need not travel to Britain to find kid-friendly food without artificial food dyes, though. Everything sold at the Whole Foods and Trader Joe's supermarket chains is free of the controversial chemicals.

"I can't imagine why the Food and Drug Administration still allows these artificial colors in food, knowing what we know," said Beth Tribble, a Fairfax County, VA parent of two boys, whose youngest is sensitive to food dyes. "It's almost impossible for parents to eliminate these chemicals from their kids' diets on their own. The FDA could make life a lot easier for parents and children by just getting rid of them."

"Banning these synthetic chemicals is certainly a far less drastic step than putting so many children on Ritalin or other potentially dangerous and sometimes-abused prescription stimulants," said Jacobson. "The food industry has known about this problem for 30 years, yet few companies have switched to safer colorings. We hope today is the beginning of the end for Yellow 5, Red 40, and these other dubious dyes."

CSPI's petition asks the FDA to require a warning label on foods with artificial dyes while it mulls CSPI's request to ban the dyes outright. CSPI also wants the FDA to correct the information it presents to parents on its web site about the impact of artificial food dyes on behavior. Joining CSPI's call are 19 prominent psychiatrists, toxicologists, and pediatricians who today co-signed letter urging members of Congress to hold hearings on artificial food dyes and behavior, and to fund an Institute of Medicine research project on the issue. Those doctors include L. Eugene Arnold, professor emeritus of psychiatry at Ohio State University; Bernard Weiss, professor of environmental medicine at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry; and Stanley Greenspan, Clinical Professor of Psychiatry and Pediatrics at George Washington University Medical School.

I hope this helps!
L. C

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Allentown on

I don't have experience in this, but can recommend someone that might be able to help you. Her name is Elaine Hardy, RN, MSN, APN, C and she is VERY good at finding out the cause of people's ailments, and has a special interest in children. Her website for more info is www.holisticfamilyhealthcarepc.com . You can email her ahead of time and see if she is able to help!!
I just know she has helped TONS of people when they don't know what else to do. She knows alot of about food dye allergies too!



answers from Pittsburgh on

I have an allergy to red dye and raspberries(which when using the flavor artifically has red dye). I break out in a rash on my face, neck and chest. I would call her doctor and see what they say. Sometimes they just tell you to wait it out, meaning keep her away from that stuff because kids grow out of allergies as they get older. Typically if you develop an allergy later in life, as in my case, it is one that will stay with you forever. Be careful alot of things your not even aware of have some red dyes in them for color enhancement. Good Luck.



answers from Williamsport on

Wheat is one of the top allergens. Discuss it with your doctor, they may do some allergen testing.



answers from York on

when i was young, i was allergic to red dye. i would get a small rash and actually urinate pick/red because my body didn't break down the dye. it went away and i never had treatments or meds for it. now if i touch anything with red dye my hands get very red for a few days but nothing else. i went to a doctor for it when i was young a few times and it seemingly normal. but i would make an appt with your dr anyway.



answers from Philadelphia on

Don't give her anything red, unless it is naturally red of course. She may have had a reaction to red #5 or one of the other suppossedly non-toxic food colorings.

One way you can isolate it is a skin test. Since her reaction was visable on the skin you can put a small amount on the inside of her elbow and on her upper cheek. If either spot becomes irritated then keep that product away from her.

Also, pick up a dye free bottle of benadryl and keep it on hand for emergencies



answers from Pittsburgh on

If the red food coloring was the only thing you did different, than I would suspect that. It is not uncommon for children to be allergic to artificial colors. Talk to your child's doctor.



answers from Scranton on

When my daughter was two, she is now 13 she used to cough very much. I used to let my girls drink koolade. I thought it was much better than soda. So many of the kids they were around were always drinking soda and koolade has less sugar plus I would put less sugar in than was called for. My one uncle used to tell me to stop letting them drink that, that it was terrible for them. He said when he was in the service they would make a paste from koolade powder to clean greasy motor parts with it. I finally decided to stop after reading about dyes and my daughter's cough went away. After reading what they are made from it made sense. I don't go crazy and forbid it all together to my kids (it would be impossible) but I try to keep most of the things in my house dye free and then when they are out or at school they are having things here and there. I try to buy organic things for them, but it does cost more. I went through allergy tests when I was young several times and I think if you could figure them out on your own that it's better than all those scratch tests & weekly shots. I recently went shopping at a trader joe's store and they had many good things to buy at a good price but the closest one to me is a few hours away but I've since found some good things at Giant but they cost a bit more. Wegman's has many good organic products as well. Good luck to you.



answers from Philadelphia on

Were you outside for the party? It could have been a heat rash.

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