Consumer Alert: A dye banned in makeup could be in your child’s Halloween candy

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. – This Consumer Alert is taking a look inside your child’s trick-or-treat bag. Last week the California governor signed a bill banning food with Red Dye No. 3 in 2027. It’s a synthetic food coloring made from petroleum. But Red No. 3 is in a lot of food, including candy.

The Environmental Working Group found Red No. 3 in almost 3,200 brand name foods. It has a website in which it gives food a score based on a number of factors including additives and nutritional value. Studies have linked the dye to neurological problems in children and cancer in rats. So in 1990 the FDA banned it in makeup and topical medications. But the FDA allowed it to remain in food and that includes lots of candy.

Red No. 3 is banned in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, China, Japan and all of Europe. So, food manufacturers have found alternatives when they sell their products in those countries. But here in the U.S, you’ll find Red No. 3 in a number of popular candies that are colored red, orange or purple. California law now bans Red No. 3 as well as three other food additives that are banned in other countries. And New York is considering similar legislation.

These are some of the candies with Red No. 3 that could land in your child’s trick-or-treat bag. Candy Corn is loaded with it. I loved Pez as a kid. It’s got Red No. 3 as well. The Starburst version of Fruit by the Foot, any red, purple or orange ring pops also have the dye. And if your kiddo loves Double Bubble, he’s smacking Red No. 3.

Here are some candies without Red No. 3: M&Ms are free of Red No.3, although it uses another common dye called Red Dye 40, as do Blow Pops, Smarties and Nerds. Also, nearly every mini candy bar you’ll find on the Halloween candy aisle is free of Red No. 3.

So does that mean that candy that doesn’t use Red-3 is safe? Not necessarily. Candy of any color likely contains a synthetic dye made from petroleum or crude oil. But studies are contradictory, so there’s not been scientific determination of possible harm. You can search for almost any food on EWG’s website to learn exactly what’s in your food.

Best advice for parents – avoid candies with Red No. 3, eat others in moderation, and thank the heavens above Halloween comes but once a year.