Not to rain on your Easter Parade, but Consumer Reports wants you to know that several of the popular Peeps candies are made with Red Dye No. 3, a colorant that causes cancer. This means that the pink and purple Peeps—marshmallow candies shaped like chicks and bunnies—are colored with a carcinogen. (If your Easter basket isn’t complete without a Peep, yellow Peeps still get a green light.)
Consumer Reports has been urging Peeps candymaker Just Born Quality Confections to remove Red Dye No. 3 since it joined an effort last October to urge the FDA to ban the cancer-causing ingredient. The nonprofit consumer organization has also launched a petition that has garnered over 27,500 signatures.
Addressed to Just Born CEO David Shaffer and Gardner Jett Jr., the petition reads:
“I expect your candy to be safe and free of substances that can cause me or my family harm. So I was shocked to learn that you use the additive Red Dye No. 3 in your popular Peeps candy—a known carcinogen that has been banned by the FDA [Food and Drug Administration] for use in cosmetics since 1990.
“With other alternative, less-risky colorants on the market, I expect you to immediately commit to removing Red Dye No. 3 from Peeps and all the other candies you manufacture. Enjoying Just Born’s candy shouldn’t mean unwittingly exposing myself or my family to known carcinogens!”
As pressure mounted and Easter approaches, the candy manufacturer responded, via a statement to CNN, noting: “FD&C Red #3 is currently an approved colorant for use in candy by the [FDA]. We manufacture all our candies in compliance with FDA regulations, sourcing our ingredients and packaging exclusively from reputable suppliers who adhere to high quality and safety standards.”
“The widespread use of Red Dye 3 is particularly concerning since it is found in many products marketed to children who are especially at risk of developing health problems from exposure,” said Michael Hansen, PhD, senior staff scientist for Consumer Reports in a press release. “It’s time for the FDA to protect public health by getting Red Dye 3 out of our food.”
The press release notes that Red Dye No. 3 is found in other Peeps flavors and candies made by Just Born, including Hot Tamales candy, Peeps Hot Tamales Marshmallow Chicks, Party Cake Peeps, Peeps Fruit Punch Marshmallow Chicks and Peeps Wildberry Marshmallow Bunnies.
In the statement to CNN, Just Born added that its product development team is “continually exploring opportunities to provide expanded options for our consumers, including colors derived from natural sources that can deliver the same visual impact and stability as their certified counterparts.”
Just Born is not the only candymaker to use the colorant. Over 2,900 food products on the market today contain Red Dye No. 3, writes Consumer Reports, including many that are marketed to children.
If that’s enough to get you hopping mad with worry, remember to check your labels. The FDA requires manufacturers to list Red Dye No. 3 as an ingredient.