CSPI Calls For Ban On Red 40, Yellows 5 and 6

One week after threatening to take the happy out of Happy Meals, the Center for Science in the Public Interest now wants to remove a few colors from the food dye rainbow, calling for the FDA to issue a ban on three colors it believes are bad for your health.

The colors being called out by the CSPI are Red 40, Yellow 5 and Yellow 6, which it claims contain known carcinogens and contaminants.

Says a CSPI labcoat type:

These synthetic chemicals do absolutely nothing to improve the nutritional quality or safety of foods, but trigger behavior problems in children and, possibly, cancer in anybody… The Food and Drug Administration should ban dyes, which would force industry to color foods with real food ingredients, not toxic petrochemicals.

Not surprisingly, the Grocery Manufacturers Association has issued a statement affirming the safety of the dyes.

Even less of a shock, the FDA says — you’ll never believe this — that they’re taking it seriously:

We appreciate the report from CSPI and look forward to reviewing it. We take our commitment to protecting children seriously.

Group urges ban of 3 common dyes [CNN]


Edit Your Comment

  1. Daverson says:

    I’m calling for a ban on the SCPI.

  2. ret3 says:

    No word on blue 42?

  3. raydee wandered off on a tangent and got lost says:

    A lot of companies use dyes to cover those variations for a uniform color in their products, to the point that companies which do *not* include dyes often have disclaimers on their products which explain that variations in color are normal for undyed foods.

    The problem with going with “natural food dyes” is that they sometimes introduce an ingredient that is otherwise unnecessary. If someone had a beet allergy, for example, then a food dyed with beet juice might pose a problem to them.

    Personally I don’t mind a bit of natural variation in colors in undyed foods.

    What I really don’t understand is the urge to dye cheeses that vivid neon orange.

    • pk says:

      from what I understand the orange color is usually a natural additive such as annato or beta carotene. It’s supposed to make the cheese look more appetizing. Doesn’t work for me, I always buy the white when there’s an option. :-)

  4. sirwired says:

    I have a hard time taking the CPSI seriously. Their reports are either inconsistent, Statements of the Obvious (movie popcorn drenched in butter is bad for you!) or sensationalized. I put them in the same category as press releases from Greenpeace or PETA.

    All three organizations have worthy stated goals, but the way they go about them makes them look about as mature as schoolkids.

  5. pecan 3.14159265 says:

    It would be great if they lumped all of these dangerous colors together and said they were intending to go after “Rainbow Six.”

    • Nidoking says:

      Next thing you know, we’ll be banning Rainbow Brite! Just think about how many years she’s been spreading her carcinogenic colors around…

  6. pantheonoutcast says:

    Maybe the CSPI should move their operations to Iran. Then they and Ahmadinejad can sit around all day banning everything in sight while the rest of the world continues on, completely unaffected.

    • Poisson Process says:

      There’s that agenda again. Tell me, who’s little shill are you?

      • pantheonoutcast says:

        You got me. I work for the Numerical Color Cabal. It is our mission to make sure there are as many numbered hues available as possible to both confuse and frighten the average American Consumer.

        Our latest nefarious mission of infiltration involves Puce #67 and Vermilion #99. Do not attempt to struggle. All your base will belong to us.

    • Randell says:

      So, if it is found out that these dyes actually are cancer causing, or cause autism, or otherwise hurt people,. are you saying it is acceptable, because people should KNOW? You are a complete idiot. Companies are filling food with items that kill people. They cause allergies and in the long run only are there for LOOKS., They do nothing for flavor. I would say an intelligent CEO could say he is not going to add shit to his food to make more money.

      • JamieSueAustin says:

        I don’t know about causing autism. But, I’ve worked with plenty of special needs children, and I can say that research proving red 40 causes behavior problems is right the fuck on.

  7. Osi says:

    Umm no, I am severely allergic to Yellow #5. Gives me major migraines to the point where I must lay down until they go away, and that can end up as HOURS LATER.

    So yes, get rid of this POS.

    • junkmail says:

      You’re allergic…. to a…. color?

      • Osi says:

        Look up yellow #5 dye. It is not just a color .. actually READ what they put in that crap.

        • EtherealFlame says:

          Which is a major additive in most energy drinks. Go figure.

        • jebarringer says:

          Yellow #5 is a molecule, so there’s no “what they put in that crap”. And as for banning, yes, we absolutely must ban everything that affects an estimated 0.12% of the population…. those poor 360,000 Americans…

          • JamieSueAustin says:

            I wouldn’t go that far… but I would support a ban on “not food” being put into food. That seems reasonable, right?

            • sirwired says:

              “Not food”?

              What qualifies as “food”? Lets say I’m buying banana-flavored yogurt. I’m looking at the ingredients list. It lists “natural banana extract” as an ingredient. Good, right?

              Well, what if it lists Pentyl Ethanoate instead? Oh noes! “Not food!” (This would probably be listed as “artificial flavoring”) However, Pentyl Ethanoate is the exact chemical that makes real bananas smell like bananas. There’s nothing magical about getting it from bananas vs. a test tube. (It’s so easy to make, it’s a common high-school chemistry project.)

              Who decides what is and is not “food”? What makes a chemical “un-food”? What’s wrong with making something cheaper and easier to produce by producing a chemical in a lab that is completely identical in every way to a chemical from a “regular” food product? What makes MSG inferior to the glutamate in traditional soy sauce?

      • phrekyos says:

        It’s not just a color, it’s a chemical (tartrazine) that some people are sensitive to.

      • missi1226 says:

        Food dye allergies are far more common than you think. I have a severe allergy to red 40. The last time I had a reaction I had to be hospitalized because my throat started to swell shut.

        I know banning them would make life easier for those with food dye allergies, but as long as its clearly labeled, not “natural and artificial colors”, those of us with allergies can avoid these products.

      • Slave For Turtles says:

        I’m also allergic (or “sensitive” depending on your definition) to yellow 5. It gives me significant asthma attacks. Because I was a glutton for old Easter candy of the marshmallow persuasion, I would eat a pack a day, and I only had asthma issues after eating the yellow ones. Took me a while to figure out the pattern, but it was a great experiment. Now I avoid yellow 5, and life is a bit more complicated. Did you know they put it in nachos sometimes? Some restaurants get very snippy if you start asking them about what’s in those nachos (Red Robin – I’m looking at you). It also means I eat a lot less candy and can’t have regular Mt. Dew anymore, so I suppose I’m just plain healthier for it.

        Yeah, I’m all for banning yellow 5, but then I’d go back to eating more unhealthy crap. Maybe it’s not a win.

    • raydee wandered off on a tangent and got lost says:

      Dang, you were able to trace your migraine trigger to a specific dye? I still haven’t figured out what causes mine. But lucky that they only last a few hours for you. When mine hit, I’m out for the rest of the day, and miserable for a few days afterwards.

      • Fidget says:

        This is also the person who expected to get social support for tazering dogs so…yeah. Migraines might actually be karma here.

    • smo0 says:

      I’m with you on this…

      doesn’t yellow #6 cause testicular cancer?

    • vrefron says:

      I’m also allergic to yellow 5 & 6. It’s not bad for me, though. My eyes water and my nose runs and my whole head sweats. But that’s it, no aftereffects.

      I used to get my roommate to buy and cook meat just so he could watch me sweat from the BBQ sauce. Win for me. But I’d be ok with getting rid of them.

    • nbs2 says:

      So because you’re allergic to it, you want it banned from all consumers?

      Just want to make sure I understand correctly.

      • qualia says:

        I’m not sure I have a pressing need to consume food dyes in anything outside of M&Ms.

  8. incident man stole my avatar says:

    How about banning MSG? That would be a great start!

    • Daverson says:

      No. Banning umami would suck.

      • cerbie_the_orphan says:

        Banning MSG would just ban an isolated form of it, as its own ingredient.

        /me likes ramen that actually includes laver/nori, instead of loading up on MSG

    • redbess says:

      Why? There’s no data that says it harms people, and in fact studies have shown that people who think they’re sensitive to MSG really aren’t (majority of people, that is — there are always a handful who really are).

      • packcamera says:

        So when has poison not been harmful? How about you swallow 2 teaspoons of MSG and see how harmless it is!

        ‘Fifth taste,’ my ass…

        • sirwired says:

          What is “poison”? This is one of those words (along with “toxin”), that if you talk to an actual toxicologist, drives them nuts!

          Almost every substance on earth is “toxic.” What makes a substance harmful is the dose. Yes, 2 tsp of MSG will be bad for you. 2 tsp of, a lot of different things is bad for you. Iron, most vitamins, caffeine, etc.

          Even some of the most harmful substances on the planet are just fine (and even helpful) in small amounts. Botulinum toxin is one of the most deadly substances on earth. In proper amounts, it’s Botox (which does have some actual medical uses beyond that of plastic surgery.) Cocaine is used as a vasoconstrictor and anesthetic for nasal surgery.

          Excess amounts of almost ANYTHING is deadly. Too much oxygen? Oxygen poisoning. Too much water? You’ll die of hyponatremia; happens to marathon runners every year. To much helium (a completely non-reactive noble gas)? You’ll suffocate.

          Just because crazy amounts of MSG can kill you is no reason it cannot be used in food. It occurs naturally in foods, why is it bad if you have some that is synthesized?

  9. alSeen says:

    My wife read about food dyes causing behavior problems a few years ago. I was skeptical, but it didn’t hurt anything to try. So we eliminated all food dyes from our 3 year old daughter’s diet. The difference was amazing. Within a week we noticed a huge difference in her ability to listen, obey and behave. It wasn’t a reduction in sugar because that stayed pretty much the same.

    • Demonpiggies says:

      “The difference was amazing. Within a week we noticed a huge difference in her ability to listen, obey and behave.”

      You should like my friend who just trained her new puppy. The change might be due to something else and not food dyes. The studies I’ve read (not a huge number of them but 1 or 2 in the past few years) never directly showed behavioral issues to be a side effect. I think it has more to do with the correlation of a parent taking control and saying “no” or just not giving them these treats… The same behavioral change can be seen when you change people’s eating habits. You can do the same thing to dogs if you change their food to something they don’t like; they tend to calm down and become more docile…

      • alSeen says:

        For some people, maybe. Not in our case though. The discipline was the same, the reaction to it was different. Believe me or not. Like I said, I was skeptical of my wife’s idea, but it didn’t hurt anything to try. I wasn’t expecting any difference in my daughter.

      • NaomiK says:

        My nine-year-old daughter is sensitive to red dye. I noticed a marked behavior change when I took it out of her diet, but what really clinched it for me was the day when we gave her some accidentally (fed her a piece of fresh strawberry pie from a bakery, which turned out to be held together with red Jell-O.) I didn’t think about the pie until the next day, when I was trying to figure out what on earth was going on: she’d fallen apart so thoroughly at school that she’d had to miss a field trip, and was now so fidgety that she was practically crawling out of her skin.

        Anyway, if you want research instead of anecdata, I’ll note that the Lancet published a study in 2007 that established that yeah, certain food additives cause hyperactivity. They didn’t definitely establish which: they gave kids a cocktail of red 40, yellow 5 and 6, and some other stuff (plus sugar and water — it was a drink) and then evaluated their performance on some tasks that require sustained attention.

        It’s not that hard to avoid, since it’s always in the list of ingredients. What I wish is that manufacturers had to include a note with the nutrition information warning you that the product contained ingredients that caused behavior problems in some children. That alone would probably get rid of red 40 in practically everything but candy canes and maraschino cherries.

    • JCH4H says:

      “These synthetic chemicals do absolutely nothing to improve the nutritional quality or safety of foods, but trigger behavior problems in children…”

      I agree with this statement.

      My brother had many behavioral problems growing up; A doctor suggested taking these artificial colorings away from my brother. It was amazing how he changed after removing food dye from his diet. Whenever he would go to parties at friends or at school, and would have “color enhanced” food….there was a MAJOR difference.

      Food can get a bright red color from beet juice, and can be made yellow by using turmeric. Artificial color is not doing anything for the food it is in.

      • HogwartsProfessor says:

        Exactly, and blue and green and purple food(except vegetables and fruits) is usually processed junk anyway.

  10. 3rdUserName says:

    No joke… During my time in elementary school it was well known by all the boys that yellow #5 “will give you nut cancer”.. I think this rumor all started some how with a can of Mountain Dew, my class must have been a head of it’s time..

    • mG says:

      I remember this from elementary too! In our case, it was with yellow Starbursts. We used to unwrap the yellow ones and repackage them in red or pink wrappers and offer them to the boys. They never fell for it, but that didn’t stop us from trying!

    • riguitargod says:

      When I was in school, kids always said it would make them shrink

    • eigenvector says:

      I heard in elementary school that it was Yellow #7

  11. Draygonia says:

    The “we are taking it seriously” jokes are getting old fast.

    • deejmer says:

      I make my own “we are taking it seriously” at home.

    • BomanTheBear says:

      I think they’re less jokes and more pointing out that the group in question is saying the requisite “public, get off our back” statement. It clearly means nothing.

  12. UrIt says:

    will they want the brown color out of Pepsi and Coke next so it’s just that ugly puke green? because i mean really, what does the coloring do beside make it look edible?

    • qualia says:

      From Coke’s FAQs, Coke is not green without food coloring, and they don’t use food coloring. Caramelized sugar is carmel color. It’s not a food dye, it’s one of the main ingredients.

  13. Virginia Consumer says:

    I can personally say that those food coloring do trigger hyperactivity in children. We carefully avoid foods with food coloring and you can visibly see when some of our children have eaten something with coloring. It is not all children, but there are quite a few, many being treated unnecessarily with drugs like Ritalin when a simple change in diet could have the same or almost the same effect.

    • alSeen says:

      Amen. We can tell when our daughter has had some. We normally don’t have to worry as she monitors it herself pretty well. She is 5 now and we have been telling her since she was 3 that she is allergic to food dyes. So she always asks people who give her snacks if it has food dyes. We even made a button for her to wear when she is at things like Vacation Bible Schools that says not to feed her food dyes and lists snacks that are ok.

      • pantheonoutcast says:

        You send your daughter to bible camp wearing an “I’m allergic to food dyes” button?

        Do you live in a Wes Anderson movie?


  14. strife1012 says:

    I have a friend who is Allergic to Red 40. May press it like Peanuts would do the Trick.

  15. JulesNoctambule says:

    Red 40 makes my throat swell shut, so yeah, I can get behind this to some degree.

  16. EtherealFlame says:

    YES! People can bash me all they want but I’m ecstatic someone is finally calling the food industry out on the use of these chemicals. I have two children that have the behavioral complications from the Red 40 dye. Believe it or not, I saw a difference in them when I started eliminating the different colors. Axing Red 40 did the trick. My oldest went from being the ADHD queen, to a normal 6 year old within a few weeks. I think most the of the kids that are diagnosed with ADHD, aren’t at all. I think they are having reactions to the dye in their food but so many people think “it’s just food coloring” and dismiss it immediately as horse pucky. No, it really isn’t. Go ahead and bash me for what I believe if you will but I can only speak from personal experience as a mom who had a child misdiagnosed with ADHD (and medicated) when she was having an “allergic” reaction instead.

    • HogwartsProfessor says:

      Hmmm. I was medicated as a kid for the same thing (only they called it “hyperactivity” back then). I wonder if maybe that wasn’t the problem.

      • NaomiK says:

        My kid’s most noticeable symptom when she consumes red 40 is that she has a hair-trigger temper and melts down at the drop of a hat.

        However, she’s also hyperactive when she eats it (and isn’t normally) FWIW, the people I know who put their kids on ritalin mostly did try the simple stuff like ditching red dye first. Some kids with apparent ADHD may just be reacting to something in their diet, but I think most are not.

        • EtherealFlame says:

          I’m not referring to the ones who truly do suffer from ADHD. Which you have to admit an alarming number of children seem to have that now days. I am mainly pointing out the parents that dismiss anything that isn’t a mainstream remedy and just start feeding their children medication at the ripe old age of 4. I have absolutely nothing against medications for those who truly need it but I think parents should try alternatives as well.

          • ShadowFalls says:

            Maybe that is why the numbers have been increasing more and more? As this stuff is getting put into ever increasing numbers of food products, the numbers of people being affected is just increasing. Food coloring on its own is unnecessary. If you have to color your food to make it appealing, it wasn’t that good to begin with. The popular use of food coloring in soda has made it start to stain people’s teeth as well.

            • EtherealFlame says:

              Thank you for articulating my point better then I could yesterday, I was just so flustered by this article. That was exactly what I was getting at in my previous post. The correlation between an increase in use of these dyes and an increase in the number of children diagnosed with ADHD or some other disorder is obscene, yet parents just turn a blind eye to it because they don’t understand these aren’t just dyes. I did that for the longest time as well. Then I had an actual doctor give me a list of foods to eliminate such as yellow cheese, hot dogs, bologna, any red or purple jams, mac and cheese, chocolate, any colored beverage and several other things. The differences in my kids were ASTOUNDING.

  17. KhaiJB says:


    everyone may want to look at research in the UK into so called E numbers….the name for these dyes there.

    it’s been known for years (at least the 80’s) that this crap affects behaviors… but good luck getting anything actually done about it…..

  18. milleribsen says:

    Ban em! those are the major ones i’m alergic to. And it’s all about me.

  19. wrtcedar says:

    I have a friend who gets full body hives when exposed to Yellow 5. It shows up in a surprising number of places. Getting it out of the food supply would be great!

    I don’t understand why people would want to eat (or defend) something that serves no useful purpose and may be a poison.

  20. ChuckECheese says:

    It seems reasonably prudent to be a bit suspicious of color additives. The history of artificial dyes runs parallel to that of the history of pharmacy. Early meds were used as dyes, and vice-versa. Gentian violet comes to mind.

  21. Jemaine says:

    Why even bother dying food, unless it needs it? I guess no one would drink a clear MTN DEW.

  22. Cantras says:

    apparently the reason there’s no blue gummi bears is that in Germany, Haribo (the original and the best:P) was restricted to natural colours. blueberries are north-american. So no weird blue things. I love gummi bears for not having that disgusting “blue raspberry” flavour.

    I’m in favor of ditching the dyes. If a food needs added colour to look appetizing… well, it’s probably something that you’re better off not eating.

    Any word on the myth that cheez-whiz and cool whip are clear till coloured?

  23. Ramona_Little says:

    I will be really happy if they ban Yellow #5 and #6. They make me break out in hives.

  24. dragonpancakes says:

    I think we should ban all food and drinks that could possibly have harmful side effects not taking into consideration the amount needed to be harmful. I call for the ban of all food and water! After we achieve this pinnacle of health we can start fighting that harmful chemical Oxygen! Since that too can be harmful if taken in the wrong way. Once this goal is achieved and all life on earth has died off this will once again be a healthy planet! ^o^ YAY!!!!!!

  25. netdesign says:

    Too bad for most pickle makers. They love Yellow 5.

  26. MoonstarGem says:

    woot! about time! I’ve been having to look at EVERYTHING I eat or drink for over 15 years to avoid red 40 since it has a REALLY bad effect on me. If it’s in something and I didn’t know it, I’d find out within 15 min of having a single bite of anything that had it. Granted, I’ll still have to read the labels for other things, but at least that’ll be one item off the list!

  27. Green Mountain Boy says:

    If you want to eat that chit then they should have it on the side…so you losers can add it to your already pathetic lives.

  28. JamieSueAustin says:

    There’s a lot of sarcastic commentary about people’s allergies, but I haven’t heard a good argument for keeping food dyes around? Is there something I’m missing?

    I’m not a health nut, but I do appreciate it when my food is made of food, and not chemical crap. If it’s not necessary for the taste or consistency, then why put it in? I mean, if they came out with chemical food perfume that made your food smell better would that make sense too? They just seem like an unnecessary addition and no one seems to have reason for keeping them around.

    Lots of snark… no reasoning…

  29. Traveshamockery says:

    What a no brainer…every elementary schooler in the USA knows that Yellow 5 shrinks your wiener. We must maintain our traditional American advantage in wang size! Ban Yellow 5!

  30. girlinatizzy says:

    I am so sick and tired of finding crap in foods and medicine. Iron pills have a bunch of crap in them, here are a few to note. Red 40, Yellow 5, Blue 1, Sodium Lauryl Sulfate and the list goes on. Liver is the way to go, twice a week. Not many doctors will tell you iron skillets and liver now will they.

    Notice the food industry loves to put in pretty colors to attract the consumer, just look at the kids cereals, full of crap. My husband came home with Cap’n Crunchs Crunch Berries cereal. I told him to take it back. It was full of colors. A lot of these are banned in many countries except money making, greedy USA who feeds the medical/pharmaceutical industry with our illnesses.

  31. banRED40! says:

    our child is in kindergarten, was having difficulty concentrating and focusing. The teacher suggested we get him tested for ADD/ADHD. We refused to accept the advice and tried other options. We started with cutting out food with a high content of sugars, we started vitamins and supplements such as omegas and flaxseed, we have had interdisciplinary teams observe our child during school hours. We noticed red koolaid affected his ability to focus and mind at home. We then researched on the red dyes and articial dyes. Praise God we can attest to the fact that the dyes do cause behavioral outbreaks! We cut out foods with dyes, especially RED 40 and my school principal said “the teacher had to brag on your child and said was like a whole different child!”. Behavioral log is awesome! No more time outs at school or constant redirections! Try it and believe it! Sign the petitionspot for banning it.