Red Dye 40 is a synthetic food dye common in dairy products, sweets, and beverages. For most people, it is safe to consume and poses no health risk, but some may be allergic to it.

Red Dye 40 is one of the most widely used food dyes, as well as one of the most controversial. The dye is thought to be linked to allergies, migraine, and mental disorders in children.

This article explains everything you need to know about Red Dye 40, including what it is, its potential side effects, and which foods and beverages contain it.

Red Dye 40 is a synthetic color additive or food dye made from petroleum

It’s one of the nine certified color additives the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approves for use in foods and beverages. The European Union also approves its use.

Certified color additives must undergo FDA certification every time a new batch is produced to ensure they contain what they’re legally supposed to.

Conversely, exempt color additives do not require batch certification, but the FDA must still approve them before they can be used in foods or beverages.

Exempt color additives come from natural sources, such as fruits, vegetables, herbs, minerals, and insects.

In health terms, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) defines Red Dye 40 to be of low concern.

Furthermore, the Food and Agriculture Organization and World Health Organization agree that the estimated dietary exposure to Red Dye 40 for people of all ages is not a health concern.

Red Dye 40 has an acceptable daily intake (ADI) of 3.2 mg per pound (7 mg per kg) of body weight. This translates to 476 mg for a 150-pound (68-kg) person.

The ADI is an estimate of the amount of a substance in food that can be consumed daily over a lifetime without adverse health effects.

One study showed that Americans ages 2 years and older consumed an average of 0.002 mg of Red Dye 40 per pound (0.004 mg per kg) of body weight per day.

Another study observed that Americans’ intake of Red Dye 40 may be higher, with those ages 2 years and older consuming a daily average of 0.045 mg per pound (0.1 mg per kg) of body weight.

Some question the safety of Red Dye 40, as its consumption is thought to cause allergies and migraine.

Allergies are your body’s immune response to a substance that does not cause a response in most people. These substances — called allergens — may be pollen, dust mites, mold, latex, food, or food components.

Some research has linked allergic reactions to migraine, a type of headache characterized by intense, throbbing pain.

Allergic reactions have been reported in children and adults for both synthetic and natural food colors, but they tend to be rare, mild, and mainly involve the skin.

Learn more about food dye allergies here.

Red Dye 40 may have links to aggression and mental disorders like attention deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD) in children.

Children with ADHD are often easily distracted, have trouble concentrating on tasks, are forgetful in daily activities, fidget, and have outbursts of anger at inappropriate times.

The FDA acknowledges that, while the current research indicates that most children don’t experience adverse behavioral effects when consuming foods that contain Red Dye 40, some evidence suggests that certain children may be sensitive to it.

While some older studies have proposed potential mechanisms by which food dyes may cause behavioral changes, the bulk of evidence does not support this claim.

Learn more about the possible links between diet and ADHD here.

As one of the most widely used color additives, Red Dye 40 is found in a variety of foods and beverages, including:

  • Dairy products: flavored milk, yogurt, puddings, ice cream, and popsicles
  • Sweets and baked goods: cakes, pastries, candy, and chewing gum
  • Snacks and other items: breakfast cereals and bars, jello, fruit snacks, chips
  • Beverages: soda, sports drinks, energy drinks, and powdered drink mixes, including some protein powders

Like other color additives, Red Dye 40 is also used to produce cosmetics and pharmaceuticals.

You can identify Red Dye 40 by reading the ingredient list. It’s also known as:

  • Red 40
  • Red 40 Lake
  • FD&C Red No. 40
  • FD&C Red No. 40 Aluminum Lake
  • Allura Red AC
  • CI Food Red 17
  • INS No. 129
  • E129

While manufacturers are not required to list the amount of an ingredient used, they must list ingredients in descending order by weight.

Learn more about reading food labels here.

Below are frequently asked questions about Red Dye 40

Does Red Dye 40 cause anything?

Some people are allergic to certain synthetic dyes. In these cases, coming into contact with Red Dye 40 may cause an allergic reaction. However, in most people, consuming Red Dye 40 will not cause any side effects or health complications.

Is Red Dye 40 safe?

Red Dye 40 is safe in most cases. Both the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the European Union deem it safe for consumption. There is potential for Red Dye 40 to have adverse effects if consumed in excessive quantities, but this is highly unlikely.

What is Red Dye 40 found in?

Red Dye 40 is common in:

  • flavored milk and yogurts
  • puddings
  • ice cream
  • popsicles
  • cakes and pastries
  • candy and chewing gum
  • jello
  • breakfast cereals
  • soda, sports drinks, and powdered drink mixes

What is Red Dye 40 behavior?

Some people claim that consuming synthetic dyes can cause hyperactive behavior in children. Limited evidence suggests that the dye can alter behavior in animal studies. However, there is no conclusive, human research to support this claim.

Red Dye 40 is a synthetic food dye made from petroleum.

While the consensus from health organizations is that Red Dye 40 poses little health risk, the dye has been implicated in allergies and worsened behavior in children with ADHD.

The dye goes by several names and is commonly found in dairy products, sweets, snacks, baked goods, and beverages.