Red 40

Today I had a blueberry flavored Oatmeal Crisp Fruit ‘n Cereal Bar. Among its 60 or so ingredients are Red 40 and Blue 1. Today’s lesson: how to do research on the internet. I’m limiting my research to Red 40, though.

  1. Search for "Red 40" at
  2. The first hit returned has lots of neat chemical formulas and pictures, stating:

    These dyes were originally manufactured from coal tar, but are now mostly made from petroleum.

    Nice. I don’t trust the first source of information I read, wanting to ensure it’s accurate.

  3. Scanning down the list of hits google returned, I look for URLs and titles that appear to come from legitimate, reliable sources. Further down the list are some hits from government (.gov) and education (.edu) sites.
  4. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration states that:

    FD&C Red No. 40 may be safely used for
    coloring foods (including dietary supplements) generally in amounts
    consistent with good manufacturing practice…

    I don’t like that "good" stuck in there; they don’t define it anywhere.

  5. I changed my search terms to "how is "red 40" manufactured" and found this explanation at one of the hits:

    …many American scientists feel that the safety of Red # 40 is far from established, particularly because all of the tests were conducted by the manufacturer. Therefore, the dye should not have receive a permanent safety rating. The National Cancer institute reported that p-credine, a chemical used in preparation of Red #40, was carcinogenic in animals. The FDA permanently listed Red #40 for use in foods and ingested drugs but only temporarily listed it for cosmetics and externally applied drugs.

    Carcinogenic. Great.

  6. This time we add our new word, searching for "carcinogenic red 40". This returns 39,500 hits. That’s enough for me.

So what did we learn about Red 40?

  1. It’s possibly carcinogenic.
  2. It’s the name of a band.

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