Red Dye #40

Updated on April 29, 2009
M.S. asks from Aurora, CO
22 answers

I was reading an article on KDVR's website today discussing red dye #40 and was stunned at how much the child sounded like mine. I have a very loving 7 year old son that I absolutely adore, but when his fit comes I want to run for the nearest exit. He starts to scream at the top of his lungs, throws things, kicks and says I hate you. Five minutes later he is fine.

After reading the article saying that red dye #40 could be to blame I'm wondering if there are any mom's out there that have found a correlation between their childrens attitudes and the dye. I'm thinking about taking everything in my pantry that has it and throwing it away, but I want to see what you ladies have to say as well. Thanks!

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So What Happened?

Wow! After reading all these posts I realize I'm not alone. My son throws at least 3 tantrums a day and with my husband deployed it makes it really tough on me. Now that I see so many of you that have actually noticed a difference I am going to go ahead and get rid of all this junk in my house. I was amazed, when I started reading labels, how much of it contains dye. I am going to be buying a ton of fruits for after school snacks and I am cutting out a lot of the cereal they eat. Normally they eat eggs for breakfast anyways with a glass of orange juice and a glass of milk. What other snacks do you give your kids, especially when you are out running errands? We are going on a road trip in June and I'm wondering what I can give them that won't make much of a mess or make things sticky. Also, what drinks do you allow them to have? I don't allow soda in the house and the only kool aid I ever let them have was sugar free, but now I'm thinking that was just as bad with all the dye in it. Any suggestions to some low calorie, no dye, drinks I can give them. Thanks for everything! You all have helped so much and I can't wait to see how he does on this new path!!!

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answers from Provo on

I work on the school bus and I have seen kids with the same allergy. I think that a lot of foods can cause allergies like this in kids.

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answers from Provo on

An LDS family located in Taiwan when I was serving my mission there had a son with a sensitivity to red dye #40. She found that his behavior was out of control if he had ANY of it and was fine without it. She eliminated many processed foods from their diet because a surprising number of foods have this dye in them, and substituted naturally flavored and colored things instead. For example, she eliminated red jello from their diet, but made fruit gelatin from fruit juice and unflavored gelatin. She also informed the school and ward about her son's sensitivity, and requested that they not give him treats with the dye in it. This regimen worked really well for them.

Good luck!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Fort Collins on

In response to the question in your update...

There are a lot of snacks you can give your kids that do not have dyes in them...even when travelling.

crackers (incl. graham, saltine, club, triscuits, wheat thins, etc)

cheese (cubed, slices, string, etc)

granola bars

fresh fruit (my 3 yr old LOVES whole apples!) - try some "new" fruits out for fun...starfruit, mango, kiwi, grapefruit, etc

yogurt tubes (buy organic w/o dye and freeze for a portable treat)

1/2 sandwiches (make ahead and take along) - pb&j, tuna, turkey, ham, etc

fruit leather (like a fruit roll-up but w/out artificial ingredients or extra sugar - you can even make your own - puree fruit and dry)

toast and butter or "just fruit" spread or apple butter


fresh veggies (carrots, celery, broccoli, bell peppers, etc)

cold pizza (make it at home and snack on left-overs...sounds kinda gross to me but my son LOVES cold is easier for him to carry)

smoothies (homemade are easy with frozen berries/bananas and milk/yogurt)

beef jerky (another favorite for my little one - and very portable)

dried fruit (raisins, cranberries, apricots, apples - you can even do these at home with a food dehydrator - I don't recommend banana chips..lots of extra sugar and oil added...although homemade would be okay)

bagel with cream cheese (mini-bagels are especially portable)

hard-boiled eggs (another favorite)

fruit or veggie juice (100% juice w/o added ingred. are available in drink box form also)

100% juice bars (frozen) - yummy! but not so portable :o)

tortilla chips and salsa

pita bread and hummus or veggies and hummus

pretzels, breadsticks


rice cakes

dry cereal is yummy and portable

snack mix (make your own with different types of cereal and dried fruit)

cheese or bean and cheese quesadillas

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Denver on

I think your idea about throwing away foods with dye in them is a very sound idea. Food dyes are linked to behavioral problems in many studies.

Please see this web page --

The Dr. Sears LEAN Start site has great info about nutrition for kids -- fascinating stuff about high fructose corn syrup and a whole range of nutrition topics, if you are interested in this. I think that every parent should be aware of how bad junk food really is for our kids, because it has enormous impacts on how they feel, how well they do in school, their behavior and attitude, everything.



answers from Pueblo on

I have twin boys dx'ed with adhd they say it makes it worse. So we did cut dyes from their diet and it did not improve their behavior at all. I have come across parents who say it does. So I am not sure if its the individual child or the parents wishful thinking.



answers from Denver on

Throw it out! Every last bit of it!



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answers from Provo on

My cousins' kids are all this way. It is night and day for their behavior and it is directly linked to this dye. She has the most mild tempered sweet kids, until they get that dye in them. And it is like day and night. They are in to everything, and every little thing sets them off.

After watching her, I have kept my own kids away from the dye and they do get a bit hyper when it has slipped through my fingers.



answers from Denver on

I truly believe this. I try not to give my children anything with food dye in it. My youngest I believe to be allergic to food dye although according to the allergist there is no way to test for it. When he has some he gets hives. I believe that many of the problems with children today are caused by all the preservatives and dyes that they eat. Do a test by only feeding him natural foods and see what happens. Read labels and you will be amazed at what we are eating.



answers from Bellingham on

Wow! This probably explains the awful behavior I've experienced with my 2-yr old daughter the last several days. I am a strict vegetarian and don't feed my daughter meats or convenience/snack foods unless they are organic. I am very aware of the negative affects of high fructose corn syrup and never feed my family anything that contains it. Since it is unusual for organic foods to contain artificial colorants i never really thought about it. But, my daughter just spend the last week with her grandparents while my husband and I looked into the possibility of attending a Graduate Program many hours away. I usually provide her snacks for the time she will be away (usually just for a short period of time) but my M.I.L., I believe, thinks my healthy eating concerns are silly and just gives my daughter whatever she wants to. Because it was just after Easter Im sure she had tons of candy. Since my daughter has been back home she has been completely unmanageable. Multiple major tantrums a day when normally we might just have one tough day a week. After 5 days at home and back to eating healthy once again her behavior is just starting to calm back down to normal. After reading this and all these comments I am convinced that her behavior may have had a great deal to do with all the unhealthy foods as they worked their way through her system. I say this because she adjusts extremely well to new situations so that is very rarely and issue. Thanks for the post!



answers from Colorado Springs on

That is an interesting article. I didn't know that it changed kids attitudes/behavior, but it gives me migraines so I try to avoid it...



answers from Denver on

Hi M.,

I was always under the impression that the foods in the grocery store were safe. I have been on a nutritional journey for 5 years now gradually improving our families diet.
There are about 60,000 chemical approved for consumption. That is a scary thought because our bodies were not designed to ingest chemicals! Yellows, blues and greens are all tough on our system (green has been linked to bladder cancer) Some people are more sensitive than others, but it effects all of us negetively. It's proven in many studies when the schools remove the "junk foods" children's behavior and test scores dramatically improve.

I work for a company called Juice Plus and not only do we help families get more fruits and veggies in their diet we host a monthly "Grocery Detectives: Fact or Fiction" tour at the grocery store to help families transition to healthier choices and to make sense out labels.
The next one will be on May 16th if you are interested give me a call.




answers from Boise on

YES!! Head banging, tantrum throwing and it's not just my child. When my oldest son was 3 I actually explained it to everyone we knew when we went off of food dye so that my son would not get any. There were two other children at his same day care who were big fit throwers and both stopped and had completely wonderful behavior once on a food dye free diet. One mom tested the theory months later. Her daughter was well rested, had just had food 20 minutes earlier and was in a great mood,so she gave her a red lollipop, after just a few minutes her daughter was in full blown head banging. We don't eat any food dye if possible. Red is VERY bad, yellow is a bit bad and blue seems okay so if we do eat candy or other foods that have dye we strive for blue. Check all labels carefully. We moved to a more healthful whole food diet and don't even bother with box mixes anymore because it's in everything! Ice tea, BBQ sauce, some cheaper ketchups, sauce mixes, lots of things labeled chocolate are really artificial flavor with tons of red food dye. Just because the USDA approves it for us doesn't mean it's not toxic. Just look at aspartame. It actually has cancer causing carcinogenics but in America we eat it all the time.



answers from Denver on

I used to teach jr high English and had one student who was extremely sensitive to any red dyes. He was a great kid, who usually coped with his ADD really well, but when he ate or drank any red, he was a different child. A few skittles could make or break our day. I would say try elimating it and see what happens, chances are it couldn't hurt. Good luck.



answers from Denver on

One of the best ways to find out is to try your best to keep a journal of what your child is eating and how he behaves afterward. If you can do this for a week or two, you will most likely detect patterns to confirm if it is food related.

During that period of time, keep journaling, if you can, while you cut foods out. You will be able to document if you are seeing marked improvements and how significant they are.



answers from Boise on

Costco has some freeze dried fruits. After trying some of my toddler's freeze-dried fruits, I had to get some for myself! Yummy!



answers from Denver on

You're on the right track. I would suggest that if your son can't tollerat Red #40, he is probably having a difficult time with other addityives as well. We found that my daughter could not tolerate most of the additives in our food supply. For her food colorings and nitrates would always trigger ADHD symptoms. Nitrates are in all packaged lunch-meats, and most pork products like ham, bacon and sausage. She's grown and married now, but, today, nitrates still give her headaches. Red and yellow food colorings were the worst additives for Jenny and would immediately trigger symptoms of hyperactivity. MSG is another additive that can cause problems. It often produces headaches (MSG actually kills brain cells), not just in people with ADD/ADHD, either. MSG can be hard to identify on products, as it hides in a multitude of names.
I think,you'll find these blogs helpful:



answers from Pueblo on

This is definitely true. My child who is now 4 threw crazy tantrums all the time and my mol suggested it was due to food coloring. I thought she was nuts, but I started avoinding it just to see and it was like night and day. I am not exagerating. Keeping him away from artificial food coloring has CHANGED our lives!



answers from Casper on

My husband has Crohn's disease and after 5 years I have learned a lot about nutrition, herbs, etc. Nuts are a great snack as long as your kids aren't allergic. I keep my children on water. Most juices you buy at the store are cooked, which makes them mostly sugar but I like the Bolthouse Farm ones in the produce section for a once in a while treat. Sometimes I get a little frustrated that everything on the grocery store has high fructose corn syrup.



answers from Denver on

I've never heard about the red dye, but my son has just entered the fit sage. I've somewhat gotten them to stop as before he can even drop to the floor he is swept up and put in time out. Yesterday it started in the store and thank goodness I was with my mom as I was able to grab him and take him to the car for time out. He is now trying to throw a fit standing up. I've found most of the time the fits start when he is low on sleep so naps and quiet time have also cut fit throwing down. I am going to follow this though it's interesting to know.



answers from Salt Lake City on

My mom SWEARS that it was the red dye that made my brother's ADHD worse and eliminating it helped lessen symptoms. That said, there's no scientific proof that I have ever seen, just anecdotal reports.

I would talk to the pediatrician about your son's behavior. It is very likely linked to daddy being gone (my son has a similar behavior issue, always has since he was 5 months old, but it got a lot worse when his dad was gone for 6 weeks in his truck driver training). But there are other issues probably involved. Most won't warrant meds, but counceling might help, and you certainly need tools on how to deal with it and keep your sanity! (My son's has lessened, but last year - when he was 7 - was miserable! Until we transfered him away from an unsympathetic teacher and principal to a school and teacher who would work with him and give him a bit of needed leeway. Lots better now, even at home!)



answers from Provo on

My son was told he was allergic to red food dye about 3 years ago. Cutting it out definitely made a big difference. Now that he is 13, he won't follow the rules anymore, and gets it at school, but at home, I don't buy any foods with food coloring, and try to eliminate as much artificial ingredients overall as possible. It is hard for a kid with these types of allergies: the candy for EVERY holiday is colored with red dye! They feel left out. But to me it is worth it to help them have the better behavior. Where do you live? Dr. Kory Branham in the SLC area is excellent for diagnosing these things.

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