Red Dye Allergy

What You May Not Know about Red Dye Allergy

Hyperactivity, aggressive behavior and other undesirable actions of children that aggravate parents the most might very well be unknowingly caused by the parents; these symptoms and more could be the result of red dye allergy in their children.   Found in many of the foods that kids crave such as lollipops, frozen treats and flavored drinks red dye can be the reason for their unreasonable behavior.

What are food dyes?

The history of adding coloration to foods is long, believed to extend back to our most ancient of civilizations.  Early attempts to “dye” foods were made by transferring the color of natural elements such as turmeric, saffron and paprika to other foods.  This meant, however that color variations were limited.  During the 1800’s, scientists decided to experiment with expanding the color choices, using questionable resources of metal and minerals.  These initial attempts placed various poisons and toxins into foods, which resulted in illness, injury and death to countless people.  The appeal of the coloration was unmistakable though, and many manufacturers jumped on the dye band wagon in the 1900’s to enhance the appearance of their products.  A petroleum product called “coal tar coloration” was the source of the 80 plus colors available at that time; a substance that was, in pure form, highly toxic.          

It wasn’t until the late 1930’s that regulation of these dyes was put in place.  It is still a work in progress, however, as numerous health problems, such as red dye allergy occurrences, continue to plague the population.

So why is food dye added to foods?  People associate specific food color with the flavor; red is strawberry, yellow is banana and so forth.  Marketing researchers realized early on that their products would have greater appeal to the general public if the convenience foods they purchased had the expected appearance that the flavor indicated.  Fortunately, the types of dyes used are now more strictly enforced by the FDA.  Coloration of food has become such a common occurrence that people do not even question its origin, and rarely do they attribute certain behavioral problems with their children to the foods they eat. 

Symptoms of intolerance for red dye 40

Although the condition is called a red dye allergy, the symptoms experienced are actually more closely linked to food intolerance.  Some of the most common symptoms include:

Symptoms can vary between individuals.  Children will frequently display behavioral issues due to the discomfort they feel as direct result from consuming the food containing red dye. 

Hidden dangers of red dye 40

Parents who discover their child’s intolerance to dyes generally prohibit them from indulging in candies, juice, fruity drinks, cheese and frozen treats.  However, there is also danger lurking in the very items parents use to make their kids feel better; children’s aspirin, cough medicines and liquid antibiotics may also include this potential dangerous additive.  Some children may have topical allergies to dyes as well, and many shampoos and lotions may have dyes as additives. 


Once the allergy is discovered, the best method of treatment is avoiding foods, drinks and drugs that contain the red dye.   Carefully reading labels on food packaging can alert the consumer of possible additives, looking for the phrase “artificial color/flavor added.”  Natural, organic foods are the best choices.  Certain drugs and medications are available without additives; check with your pharmacist to determine which products do not contain dyes.  Before allowing your child to be placed on allergy medicine to treat the condition, first try removing these products from their diet to see if symptoms disappear.

Children can display behavioral issues from time to time simply due to their age.  When the problems seem consistent, however, it may be time to look for hidden causes such as a red dye allergy.  It may very well result in a healthier, happier child.