Is ‘red dye allergy’ real?

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Is ‘red dye allergy’ real?

Can people be allergic to red dye that is commonly found in food and other products?

According to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, allergic reactions to food dyes are rare, but they do occur.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) states that synthetic food dyes, which come from coal tar or petroleum, have long been controversial. It contends many of the nine dyes currently approved by US Food & Drug Administration (FDA) “raise health concerns.” Among these are Red Dye 40, also known as Alurra Red, which is the most common artificial food coloring. It is found in candy, cereal, baked good, drinks, and cosmetics.

CSPI has released a study claiming Red 40 can cause allergic reactions in some people, such as hives and facial swelling, as well as hyperactivity in children. This is often referred to as “red dye allergy.” It recommends excluding Red 40 from foods until new tests clearly demonstrate its safety.

However, the FDA contends color additives (dyes) are safe when used in accordance with its regulations. Those regulations specify the types of foods in which dyes can be used, any maximum amounts allowed to be used, and how the color additive should be identified on the food label, such as FD&C Blue No. 1 or its abbreviated name, Blue 1. All color additives must be approved by the FDA before they can be used in foods.

The FDA says it has reviewed, and will continue to examine, the effects of color additives on children’s behavior. Scientific evidence indicates that most children have no adverse effects when consuming foods containing color additives, but some evidence suggests certain children may be sensitive to them. Parents who wish to limit the amount of color additives in their children’s diet can check the food ingredient list on labels. Parents should also discuss any concerns with their primary care provider.

The Mayo Clinic adds that no solid evidence exists that artificial colors in food cause health problems. There are no health benefits associated with artificial colors either, so removing them from foods is not a bad idea. It advises choosing foods that are naturally colorful instead of foods that are colored with artificial additives.