Seeing Red No. 3: Coloring to Dye For

Seeing Red No. 3: Coloring to Dye For
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The artificial food coloring Red No. 3 has yet to be banned—despite its purported role in causing thousands of cases of thyroid cancer.

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Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

Fifteen million pounds of food dyes are sold every year in the U.S. Why? “Foods are artificially colored to make unattractive mixtures of basic ingredients and food additives acceptable to consumers.” See, food colorings are added to countless processed food products to “conceal the absence of fruits, vegetables, or other ingredients, and make the food ‘appear better or of greater value than it [actually] is.’” Otherwise, cherry popsicles might actually look like they have no cherries in them!

I’ve talked about the role of food dyes in causing ADH symptoms in kids. But, what about their role in cancer?

Due to cancer concerns, Red dye #1 was banned in 1961. Red #2 was banned in 1976, and then Red #4 was banned. What about Red #3, used today in everything from sausage to maraschino cherries? It was recently found to cause DNA damage in human liver cells in vitro, comparable to the damage caused by a chemotherapy drug whose whole purpose is to break down DNA.

But, Red #3 was found to influence children’s behavior more than thirty years ago, and interfere with thyroid function over forty years ago. Why is it still legal?

This is an article from the New York Times about Red #3 published way back in 1985. Already by then, the FDA had postponed action on banning the dye 26 times, even with the Acting Commissioner of the FDA saying Red #3 was “of greatest public health concern,” imploring his agency to “not knowingly allow continued exposure” (at high levels in the case of Red #3) of the public to…color additive[s] that [have] clearly been shown to induce cancer… The credibility of the [Department of Health and Human Services] would suffer if decisions are not made soon on each of these color additives.” That was written thirty years ago.

At the end of the day, industry pressure won out. “FDA scientists and FDA commissioners…have recommended that the additives be banned… But there has been tremendous pressure…to delay the recommendations from being implemented.”

In 1990, concerned about cancer risk, the FDA banned the use of Red #3 in anything going on our skin, but it remained legal to continue to put it in anything going into our mouths. Now, the FDA said at the time that they planned on stopping that too, and ending all “remaining uses” of Red #3, lamenting that “The cherries in 21st-century fruit cocktail could well be light brown.” That was 1990.

Over 20 years later, it’s still in our food supply. After all, the agency estimated that “the lifetime risk of thyroid tumors in humans [from Red #3 in food] was at most 1 in 100,000.” 

“Based on today’s population, that would indicate that Red #3 is causing cancer in about 3000 people.”

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Images thanks to Thomas Heyman and TheCulinaryGreek via flickr, and Mariuszjbie via Wikimedia

 

Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

Fifteen million pounds of food dyes are sold every year in the U.S. Why? “Foods are artificially colored to make unattractive mixtures of basic ingredients and food additives acceptable to consumers.” See, food colorings are added to countless processed food products to “conceal the absence of fruits, vegetables, or other ingredients, and make the food ‘appear better or of greater value than it [actually] is.’” Otherwise, cherry popsicles might actually look like they have no cherries in them!

I’ve talked about the role of food dyes in causing ADH symptoms in kids. But, what about their role in cancer?

Due to cancer concerns, Red dye #1 was banned in 1961. Red #2 was banned in 1976, and then Red #4 was banned. What about Red #3, used today in everything from sausage to maraschino cherries? It was recently found to cause DNA damage in human liver cells in vitro, comparable to the damage caused by a chemotherapy drug whose whole purpose is to break down DNA.

But, Red #3 was found to influence children’s behavior more than thirty years ago, and interfere with thyroid function over forty years ago. Why is it still legal?

This is an article from the New York Times about Red #3 published way back in 1985. Already by then, the FDA had postponed action on banning the dye 26 times, even with the Acting Commissioner of the FDA saying Red #3 was “of greatest public health concern,” imploring his agency to “not knowingly allow continued exposure” (at high levels in the case of Red #3) of the public to…color additive[s] that [have] clearly been shown to induce cancer… The credibility of the [Department of Health and Human Services] would suffer if decisions are not made soon on each of these color additives.” That was written thirty years ago.

At the end of the day, industry pressure won out. “FDA scientists and FDA commissioners…have recommended that the additives be banned… But there has been tremendous pressure…to delay the recommendations from being implemented.”

In 1990, concerned about cancer risk, the FDA banned the use of Red #3 in anything going on our skin, but it remained legal to continue to put it in anything going into our mouths. Now, the FDA said at the time that they planned on stopping that too, and ending all “remaining uses” of Red #3, lamenting that “The cherries in 21st-century fruit cocktail could well be light brown.” That was 1990.

Over 20 years later, it’s still in our food supply. After all, the agency estimated that “the lifetime risk of thyroid tumors in humans [from Red #3 in food] was at most 1 in 100,000.” 

“Based on today’s population, that would indicate that Red #3 is causing cancer in about 3000 people.”

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Images thanks to Thomas Heyman and TheCulinaryGreek via flickr, and Mariuszjbie via Wikimedia

 

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