Mommy, where does red food dye come from?…
I often feel like Dr. David Banner, who theorized he needed more exposure to gamma rays in order for his body to be able to harness its superhuman strength during a time of an adrenaline-fueled crisis. He therefore took matters into his own hands by using scientific machinery to get a good dose of gamma radiation. Of course, in turn he became the Incredible Hulk.
In the way that he had to scientifically experiment with his own body to test his theory, so have I, in several cases. Today’s report: The Case of Red Food Dye.
Between the ages of 9 and 11, I was a nervous kid. I had nothing to be anxious about. Definitely a happy childhood. But for no apparent reason, at times I would break out into anxiety attacks. I didn’t know why I was so afraid or why I was crying. And I had constant stomach problems. Which helped keep me nervous all the time.
Then fortunately through my mom’s circle of Mom Friends, she heard the urban legend that red food dye in Kool-Aid and other kid’s foods was causing health problems in children. So I was banned from red Kool-Aid and any kind of candy or snacks that were the color red, or specifically contained the food dye colors Red 40 or Crimson Lake.
And what was the result? My anxiety attacks and stomach problems cleared up.
Red 40 (Allura Red AC) has been linked to hyperactivity, ADHD, and even lower IQ’s in children. Turns out, the Red Food Dye Urban Legend is not simply an old wives’ tale. In the UK, Red 40 is planned to be officially phased out by the end of this year in children’s products, including medicine. However, in America, the dye is still approved by the FDA.
What’s so toxic about Red 40? Here’s a clue: It’s derived from petroleum.
Crimson Lake (Carmine) has been linked to severe allergic reactions, even known to cause anaphylactic shock, which is a very serious condition. Europe discourages the use of the dye in its food products, yet has no regulations against it. The American FDA will begin requiring companies to specifically label food products with the dye, starting in 2011.
What’s so toxic about Crimson Lake? It’s derived from female cochineal (scaled) insects. They produce carminic acid, which is a deterrent for their predators. That acid is where the dye gets its official name: Carmine.
We eat petroleum and insects every day. In red licorice. Big Red chewing gum. Yogurt. M&M’s. If it’s not naturally red, it’s probably Red 40 or Crimson Lake.
But really, is knowing this going to stop us?