Everyone knows that modern food is full of artificial additives. If your candy or drink is red or orange, it contains synthetic colorings. Most of them are considered to be safe, but are they free from animal byproducts?


The most popular coloring in the USA is Red 40. You can run across this ingredient in a large number of products. This article will help you to find out is Red 40 vegan or not.

What is Red 40?

This artificial food coloring certified by FDA is also known as Allura Red. Is Red 40 made from bugs? No, it isn’t.  You should not confuse it with carmine, which is derived from small insects.

What is Red 40 made from? There are two ways of producing: it coal tar and petroleum. Both of them are actual nowadays. In other words, this dye is a result of mixing fragrant smelling hydrocarbons like benzene and toluene.

Red 40 VS Red 40 Lake

What’s the difference between Red 40 and Red 40 Lake? They are almost the same. Red 40 Lake is non-water soluble and has aluminum hydroxide. Usually, you can find it in pills and sometimes in food.

Is Red 40 Vegan?

On the one hand, Red 40 is vegan. Derived from petroleum or coal tar, it doesn’t contain animal byproducts. The manufacturing process also does not include anything non-vegan.

The main problem is that Red 40 is not cruelty-free. In 2018 it was tested on rats to find out its health effects.  Then the animals were euthanized. Not only rats took part in testing, but also cows and dogs in 2009 and 2017. All of them had to die.

Despite all these facts, it’s a controversial coloring. It’s only up to you whether to consume it or not.

Red 40 Health Effects

Is Red 40 bad for you? This coloring is a synthetic derivative containing a lot of harmful chemicals. There is nothing healthy about it. FDA requests to list it on the products’ labels. Anyway, you never know how much Red 40 is in your food.

Potential health risks:

  1. According to the studies made by the Center for Science in the Public Interest, there is a connection between this dye and hyperactivity in kids. However, Red 40 is not the main cause of ADHD. At the same time, it can affect children’s behavior.
  2. Tests with mice have shown that food coloring causes immune tumors.
  3. P-Cresidine is one of red dye 40 ingredients. The US Department of Health considers it to be a carcinogen. It means that Red 40 may potentially increase cancer risks.
  4. Rats consuming Red 40 as 10% of their daily intake have reduced reproductive function. What is more, their offspring has low brain weight. This fact was the reason for death among newborn rats.

The Environmental Working Group considers Red 40 to be of low hazard level. However, most scientists claim that it’s very dangerous for people.



Red dye allergy or Red 40 allergy is a widespread immune response to this additive. It can occur both to children and adults as a lot of food contains this ingredient. At the same time, kids have more risks due to their fondness for candies and drinks.

Symptoms of Red 40 allergy:

  1. Skin reactions. Usually, the first symptom of allergy is pruritic rash. It can be on your face, neck, hips, and arms. Hives or thick bumps also appear very often. You doctor will diagnose it like contact dermatitis, urticaria, or eczema. The most dangerous is angioedema. In other words, it’s a swelling in the deep layers of skin. In most cases, it affects the face and throat. Without emergency medical care, it may result in death because of asphyxiation.
  2. Gastrointestinal problems. It can happen because of food intolerance or allergy to some ingredients. The most common digestive symptoms are diarrhea, nausea, and stomachaches. Usually, gastrointestinal problems appear after the skin reaction.
  3. Respiratory symptoms. Itchy throat, nose, or eyes are classic signs of Red 40 allergy. You can also sneeze and hear a whistling sound when you breathe. These symptoms are common for many diseases. That’s why the allergy might be mistaken for fever or flu.
  4. Anaphylactic shock. In other words, it’s a very hazardous allergic reaction. The main symptom is the swelling of the body. There also can be skin reactions and respiratory problems. You should remember that without medical attention, a person may die. It happens because of laryngeal edema.

You can also have symptoms like these:

  1. Heart palpitations
  2. Low blood pressure
  3. Vertigo
  4. Poor appetite
  5. Sleep disorder
  6. Joint pain


How to Spot Red 40?

Other names for Red 40:

  1. Red №40
  2. FD & C Red №40
  3. FD and C Red №40
  4. Allura Red
  5. Allura Red AC
  6. I. 16035
  7. I. Food Red 17
  8. E 129

Popular Products with Red 40


If your food is red or orange, you can be sure that it includes artificial colors. In most cases, it’s Red 40. At the same time, you can find it even in cheeses, crackers, or peanut butter.

You also can spot it in cereals for children. The presence of Red 40 helps to imitate the fruit flavors. Even dairy products may have this ingredient. The great example is strawberry milk, ice-cream, or yogurt.

Most soda drinks also contain this artificial dye. Usually, you can find it in beverages with raspberry or orange flavor. The same thing is about potato chips, cookies, and other snacks.

These products always contain Red 40:

CerealFoods Candy DrinksCosmetics
Cap’n Crunch Oops! All Berries


Fruity Cheerios

Fruity Pebbles

Cherry pie fillings

Barbeque sauces

Reese’s Pieces

Strawberry Twizzlers



Candy corn

Jelly beans
Full Throttle Red Berry

Powerade Orange

Crush Orange

Sunny D Orange Strawberry
Eye shadows

Body washes

Sun tanning products


How to Avoid Red 40?

There exist many reasons to stop buying food containing artificial dyes.

Ways to avoid Red 40:

  1. Always read the list of ingredients. Don’t forget that Red 40 can have other names. Sometimes you can see terms like “artificial coloring” or “color added.” It means that these ingredients are natural. Remember that all brands have to list synthetic dyes by their names.
  2. Choose organic products. Vegan food is always free from artificial ingredients. It’s even better if your product is USDA certified.
  3. Avoid numbers. All synthetic dyes have numbers. For example, Red 40, Blue 1, Yellow 6. If you see it among the ingredients, choose another product.
  4. Cook at home. It’s the best way to avoid artificial additives. You will always know what your meal contains. Make your own drinks and foods from natural products. A food processor may ease and speed op this task.
  5. Don’t buy processed foods. It concerns such products like cereals, soda, inorganic cheese, etc. All of them usually aren’t free from Red 40.
  6. Make your own food coloring. You can replace this bad red dye with beets, cranberry juice, pomegranate juice, strawberries, and raspberries.


Is artificial red dye 40 vegan? It’s hard to answer this question because it’s not cruelty-free. It’s something that you have to decide for yourself. Some vegans consume it, and the others avoid it.

Don’t forget that Red 40 may be hazardous for you. It’s better to choose natural products to keep your body healthy.

Tagged in:

About the Author

Joshua Howard

I'm a healthy living blogger who loves to help people who care about having an eco-friendly home environment and a healthy lifestyle. With proper nutrition I helped my brother to cure gastritis and my father to normalize his blood pressure.

View All Articles