Is Red 40 Vegan, Cruelty-Free and Halal Dye?

Is Red 40 Vegan

Food coloring additives play an important role in how we taste and recognize food. A plate full of colorful food items is no less than art. However, it’s significant to note, besides being so obvious and usual, food coloring is still a mystery to the public. Especially, the little knowledge about the ingredients and the making of food colors enhances the confusion in vegan food choices. Just think about red 40.

It’s scary to know how much less information we have on red 40 when it is one of the most widely used coloring additives in foods and beverages. The immense use of food dyes puts our food choices in a questionable state as we don’t know how badly it can harm our health and lifestyle. It can also be a direct threat to veganism if the foods consumed daily contain any animal by-product. So, let’s unfold some mystery around red 40 and see if it hinders the vegan lifestyle.

What is Red 40?

Red 40 or Allura Red AC is a synthetic food dye used to give foods a certain color. It is one of the highly used food colorings in the US. Red 40 also helps to give some flavored food identity to make them easily recognizable. Apart from food, this dye is also being used in some beauty and personal care products and, surprisingly, in some medications.

Is Red 40 Vegan? 

Absolutely! Red 40 is a vegan food coloring commonly used in various products. Despite some misconceptions surrounding its production, Red 40 is not derived from animals. Unlike certain red dyes obtained from insects, Red 40 is a chemical compound that is completely vegan-friendly.

Is Red 40 Cruelty-free?

Red 40, along with many artificial colors, is routinely tested on animals. So, despite being vegan, it’s definitely not cruelty-free. This FDA approved food dye is found contaminated with benzidine or other carcinogens, which is bad for animals that you can check in this article on Toxicology of Food Dyes.

What Is Red 40 Made Out Of?

Food dyes are divided into two types based on what it is made out of – Natural and Artificial. Red 40 is a chemical compound that has coal tar and petroleum.

Dyes derived from coal tars are made by mixing many fragrant hydrocarbons such as benzyne and toluene. So, it falls under the artificial dye category along with Yellow 5 and Yellow 6.

List of Foods With Red Dye 40

Foods With Red Dye 40

When we read the word “added food coloring,” the first thing that strikes our minds is the candy packet in a kid’s hand. Or the orange-flavored cold drink you just had. But, shockingly, you could be having food coloring in almost every meal, from your flavored yogurt in breakfast to your cup of tea. Red Dye 40 is very evident in –

  • Dairy Products and Frozen Desserts like ice cream, popsicles, and flavored yogurt.
  • Sauces and Pickles as tomato ketchup (check ketchup’s vegan status) or schezwan sauce.
  • Sports Drinks, Sodas (know if sodas are vegan), Juices, including protein or electrolyte drinks.
  • Breakfast Cereals such as chocolate or any certain flavored cereal. (check vegan breakfast cereals brands)
  • Dinner Products also has a red 40 dye in it, such as Kraft Macaroni and cheese or Hamburger Helper.
  • Candies like Skittles (Check skittles vegan status) and Packaged Snacks like a packet of gummy fruit snacks or chocolate pudding.
  • Packaged Fruit and Fruit bars also contain red dye to enhance its appearance.
  • Snack chips like the tortilla ones like Doritos (check Doritos flavors that are vegan), Takis (check vegan status) and many other spicy corn and potato chips.

Is Red 40 Dangerous?

Red 40, Yellow 5, and Yellow 6 contain some compounds such as benzidine and 4- aminobiphenyl, which are linked with cancer.

According to The Center For Science in the Public Interest, red 40 could be the cause of some allergic reactions. Also, some studies show that children suffering from ADHD are much vulnerable to the red 40 side effects.

As per one clinical study, it is proved that removing synthetic dyes from the diet can significantly reduce hyperactive syndromes.


From all the studies and discussion on Red 40 artificial food dye, we come to know about some problems which can occur in our bodies as side effects, while we do not know about any of its benefits whatsoever. From ancient Egyptian culture to the modern world we live in, food coloring additives have come a long way.

Still, their main purpose is to enhance the color of the food. Like Food coloring, there are a number of flavor enhancers that are present in a number of food products, One such flavor enhancer is E631, you can check E631’s vegan status on VegansFirst. It’s all about how vision obscures our ability to think logically – that’s why we always end up picking the reddest of apples, thinking it’s fresh. Maybe it’s time to choose what is healthy rather than what is presented to be healthy.

Frequently Asked Questions

No, red 40 is a vegan food coloring which is derived from coal tar and has no connection with any animals or insects.

Yes, red 40 is a chemical compound that is not made from any animal by-product.

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  1. How wonderful it would be if the manufacturers of drugs/medicine would/could stop using any dyes in medications. Exposure to carcinogens when taking a needed drug should be unacceptable!!
    At least reduce is vegan….

  2. Something can’t be vegan and not cruelty free at the same. Vegan does not simply mean plant based. That’s like saying that the number 4 can be the number 4 without also being a multiple of 2.

    1. cruelty exists in the production of food in ways that aren’t just to animals, Braulio. consider the cruelty that laborers face in unsafe farming or manufacturing conditions

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