Welcome to Consumer Reports Advocacy

For 85 years CR has worked for laws and policies that put consumers first. Learn more about CR’s work with policymakers, companies, and consumers to help build a fair and just marketplace at TrustCR.org

Popular Peeps Easter candy is made with cancer-causing Red Dye 3

Consumer Reports urges consumers to sign petition to call on Peeps manufacturer to stop using Red Dye 3 

CR delivers nearly 35,000 petition signatures to FDA calling for ban of dangerous food chemical 

YONKERS, NY – Consumer Reports is alerting consumers that the purple and pink Peeps candies popular this time of the year for Easter are made with Red Dye No. 3, a known carcinogen. Earlier this year, CR called on Just Born Quality Confections to stop making Peeps with the cancer-causing dye, but the company has not announced any plans to change its manufacturing process.

CR is asking consumers to send a message to the Peeps manufacturer in a petition to the company.

“Parents should know that the purple and pink colored Peeps they may be putting in their kids’ Easter basket are made with an ingredient that is a known carcinogen,” said Michael Hansen, PhD, senior staff scientist for Consumer Reports. “Just Born Quality Confections should stop making its iconic marshmallow treats with this dangerous food chemical since other less risky alternatives are readily available.”

Despite the health concerns about Red Dye 3, the ingredient is found in Peeps Pink Marshmallow Chicks, Peeps Pink Marshmallow Bunnies, Peeps Lavender Marshmallow Chicks, and Peeps Lavender Marshmallow Bunnies. Red Dye 3 is also found in other products made by the company, including Hot Tamales candy, Peeps Hot Tamales Marshmallow Chicks, Party Cake Peeps, Peeps Fruit Punch Marshmallow Chicks, and Peeps Wildberry Marshmallow Bunnies.

According to the Environmental Working Group. more than 2,900 food products on the market today contain Red Dye 3, including many artificially flavored and artificially colored candy marketed to children. The FDA requires manufacturers to list Red Dye 3 as an ingredient on a food’s label.

Last October, Consumer Reports joined the Center for Science in the Public Interest and other groups to urge the FDA to ban the cancer-causing ingredient in all food. As part of that effort, CR delivered a petition to the FDA today signed by nearly 35,000 consumers calling on the agency to prohibit the use of Red Dye 3 in food.

For decades, the FDA has been aware of multiple studies showing that Red Dye 3 can cause cancer in animals. Several studies have linked some artificial food dyes, including Red Dye 3, to hyperactivity and other neurobehavioral effects in children. While Red Dye 3 poses risks to people of all ages, young children may be the most vulnerable because of their small body weight and higher levels of exposure.

“Red Dye No. 3 has been banned by the FDA from use in cosmetics since 1990, but inexplicably is still allowed in food,” said Hansen. “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.  It’s time for the FDA to protect public health by getting Red Dye 3 out of our food.”

Separately, Consumer Reports is co-sponsoring a bill in California with the Environmental Working Group that would ban Red Dye 3 and four other dangerous food chemicals in the state. In addition to Red Dye 3, the bill would ban brominated vegetable oil, potassium bromate, propyl paraben, and titanium dioxide, which have been linked to serious health problems, including high risk of cancer, nervous system damage, hyperactivity, and other behavioral problems. All five food chemicals have been banned by regulators in Europe.

Michael McCauley, michael.mccauley@consumer.org, 415-902-9537