Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Popular treat Peeps may contain dangerous dye

Millburn, USA - January 19, 2012: Peeps are well known marshmallow candies popular around the Easter holiday.
DW labs Incorporated
Adobe Stock
Peeps are well-known marshmallow candies popular around the Easter holiday.

Pink and purple "Peeps" are popular Easter treats, but consumer health experts warn they contain a dye that has been linked to cancer and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.

The Food and Drug Administration banned Red Dye No. 3 in cosmetics in 1990, saying it causes cancer in rats, but 33 years later it remains legal as a food additive.

Consumer Reports senior scientist Dr. Michael Hansen said advocates have petitioned the FDA to ban it in food - and public comments on are being taken now through May 18.

"Unfortunately, the FDA only takes action if there is a lot of public outcry," he said, "and that's in part because there is pressure from the other side, because most companies don't like regulations. They think they're 'red tape.'"

Consumer Reports is collecting signatures on a petition to ask the company to stop using Red Dye No. 3.

In a statement, Just Born, the company that makes Peeps, said it only uses FDA-approved colorants, lists ingredients on packaging and is exploring options for colors from natural sources.

Hansen advised families to read the labels and avoid any products with Red Dye No. 3.

"There is a fruit punch flavor. There's a cotton candy flavor. There's a cake decoration flavor," he said. "Those ones will contain Red 3."

According to the Environmental Working Group, close to 3,000 food products on the market today contain Red Dye No. 3, many of which are marketed to children.