2027 Challenge: Replacing Red Dye No. 3

Artificial red dyes, especially red dye No.3, have been under growing scrutiny in the United States for the past few decades. In light of those concerns, some states are moving to ban the use of red dye No. 3. California has been leading the charge as it announced its ban on October 2023. 

What is red dye No. 3?

Red dye No. 3 is a synthetic dye derived from petroleum. It provides a strong red hue and is commonly used in candies and other food products. 

While it is federally legal in the U.S., other countries and regulatory agencies have expressed concerns about its potential effects or outright banned them. 

What are the concerns raised about red dye No. 3?

Already banned from use in cosmetics, red dye No. 3 has been associated with health concerns and is banned from use in the European Union. 

Upon investigation, California’s Environmental Protection Agency found evidence that the dye can cause behavioral problems in children. A study also found that synthetic food dyes can affect memory and learning. While the FDA banned red dye No. 3 use in cosmetics in 1990, citing increased risks of cancer in animal trials, the agency now believes those risks are specific to rats. 

What states are part of this ban?

Upon review of the evidence gathered by multiple agencies, California signed a bill that will prohibit any food product manufactured, sold, delivered, distributed, or held within the state after January 1, 2027, from containing brominated vegetable oil, potassium bromate, propylparaben, or red dye 3.  

California is the first state to sign such a bill into law, but multiple other states are introducing similar bills to their legislature. New York currently has introduced three bills to the state house and senate that would outlaw red dye No. 3 as soon as 2025. Illinois, Missouri, South Dakota, and Washington are adopting less aggressive approaches with potential prohibition planned for 2027. 

What does that mean for the food industry?

California is the biggest food market in the US, according to the USDA. For companies who offer products containing restricted additives, this could mean losses in the billions of dollars. 

Additionally, since red dye No. 3 is already banned in other parts of the world, this could have a considerable impact on the import and export of food products. 

The California bill seems to put companies in a situation that leaves them with no choice but to replace those ingredients. Thankfully, Lycored’s lycopene-based colors are a perfect solution for beautiful red hues in a variety of applications. 

What alternatives are there for artificial red dyes?

Red dye No. 3 is frequently used in candy and confectionery products, mostly consumed by children and bought by parents growing more and more concerned about what goes on their children’s plates. Because of these growing concerns, companies might have started to offer products without any controversial red dye, which gives them some insight into the changes still left to be done. 

For many companies, this might be a unique opportunity to get closer to what their audience might want from their products. Consumers seem to be yearning to go back to simpler and more wholesome ingredients for their foods. And because of this growing demand, food ingredients companies are already offering alternatives to artificial food additives. 

Lycored, for example, started offering a collection of naturally derived colors in 2012. Our collection of red-to-pink colorants derived from tomatoes is compatible with a wide range of applications. ResilientRed is particularly well suited for red confectionery applications. While looking good is always a good thing, it also shows a proven superior stability across the pH scale, maintaining its beautiful hue, compared to common natural colorants. 

All food products are unique and deserve a well-suited solution, our team is dedicated to making your product a success. Get the conversation about switching to naturally derived colorants today!