Why This Dad Despises Red 40 And Crimson Lake Food Dyes

January 15, 2012 at 10:05 pm , by 

13 months.

Would you eat petroleum? What if it made your food more physically more appealing?

What about insects? Are you cool with eating ground-up bugs?

The funny thing is, you and your kids already do. And the FDA approves it.

In 5th and 6th grade, I was a pretty sick kid. I had so many stomach issues back then that today I still owe my ability to unclog any toilet back to 20 years ago when I had to carry around TUMS Extra at all times.

What made it worse was that I suffered anxiety attacks, which helped keep a vicious circle going: I was always nervous that my extreme digestion issues would flare up at any moment, especially in public places where I couldn’t escape to a restroom. And when they did, it only fueled my anxieties.

Keeping in mind that this was during a time when there was no such thing as “looking it up on the Internet,” fortunately my mom heard from another mom that I should stay away from any foods with red food dye: namely “Red 40″ and “Crimson Lake.” There was no way for us to know what was in those food dyes, but whatever it was, I stopped consuming it.

No more red Kool-Aid. No more Twizzlers. No more red anything unless it came that way naturally.

As you can imagine because of this article’s title, both my extreme indigestion and my anxiety attacks went away. But it wouldn’t be until the glorious arrival of Wikipedia that I would know exactly what was in those red food dyes:

Red 40: Made mostly from petroleum, this red dye can easily be found in sodas, cotton candy, and children’s medications. It has been linked to cases of ADHD and hyperactivity in children. Red 40 is also known as Allura Red AC.

Crimson Lake: Made from the powdered and boiled bodies of scale insects (parasites of plants) this dye is commonly found in yogurt, juice drinks, ice cream, and candy. Though I am a vegetarian, I still abide by kosher law, which prohibits the consumption of any insect other than the locust. Crimson Lake is also known as Carmine.

Fun fact: The closing scene of the movie The Wedding Planner makes a reference to these dyes as the “added chemicals” in red M&M’s that Jennifer Lopez’s character throws out.

Can you blame me from not trusting the FDA? It should common sense that people shouldn’t eat petroleum or parasites. So you know what? I am my own FDA. I decide what weird stuff my family does and does not eat.

And I’ll tell ya… bugs and oil are not on our menu.

Top image of scale insects, courtesy of Frank Vincentz. 

Bottom image of scale insect nests, courtesy of Oscar Carrizosa.

Red Food Dye: Red 40 Comes from Petroleum and Crimson Lakes Comes from Scale Insects

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.

Petroleum = Red 40

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.

Scale insects = Crimson Lake

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?