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Consumer Reports petitions FDA to ban Red Dye No. 3, the artificial color, in food


In the current issue of its “On Health” newsletter, Consumer Reports calls on its member to sign a new petition about one of its older causes.

It all dates back 30 years to when the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) found Red Dye No. 3 to cause animal cancer and took action to ban the substance in cosmetics. Research back then also linked Red Dye No. 3 to hyperactivity in children.

“Since the early 1980s, the FDA had evidence that Red Dye No. 3 caused cancer in laboratory animals,” On Health reports. “Despite banning this dye in cosmetics more than 30 years ago, the agency has failed to take the promised steps to ban this known carcinogen in our food, medicines, and supplements. Sign our petition to the FDA demanding it ban Red Dye No. 3 from anything your family ingests. If this dye isn’t safe for external cosmetic use, how is it safe for you or your family to eat?” asks Consumer Reports.

CR’s Petition to FDA

“We demand the FDA act immediately to prohibit the use of Red Dye No. 3 in food, medicine, and supplements. This dye, which is a known carcinogen, is already banned in cosmetics. Yet the FDA still allows it in food products – many which are marketed to children, including candy and junk food. It’s beyond time to get this unnecessary, dangerous additive out of our food,” Consumer Reports said in its publication.

To sign the CR petition to “Ban Red Dye No. 3 from food, medicine, and supplements” go here.

After it was banned from cosmetics, many expected Red Dry No. 3 would shortly be banned from food and beverages. But it’s one of those instances where the FDA has moved with glacier speed.

According to CR’s “On Health” newsletter, Red Dye No.3 is “an ingredient in thousands of products, from vegetarian bacon by MorningStar Firms to certain flavors of Yoohoo, PediaSure, and Ensure.” Dye is also found in some medicines and supplements.

Red Dye No. 3 was used for 100 years before the health risks were discovered. Even FDA predicted it would be banned in food after the agency’s action on cosmetics. But a generation later, it has not happened.

CR’s new petition has support from the Center for Science in the Public Interest and other food safety organizations. CR’s Food Policy Director Brian Rodholm’s question for “On Health ” readers was : “If this dye isn’t safe for cosmetic use, how is it safe for you or your family to eat?”

It is estimated that at least 15 million pounds of food dyes are sold every year in the U.S. Yet cancer concerns have brought bans on Red dye No. 1 in 1962; on Red dye No. 2 in 1976, which was shortly followed by the ban on No. 4.

Except for its use in cosmetic, Red dye No. 3 remains in legal use in food and beverages even though it’s been linked to DNA damage in human liver cells in vitro, much like the damage caused by a chemotherapy drug whose whole purpose is to break down DNA.

(To sign up for a free subscription to Food Safety News, click here)


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