It’s peak Peep season, but the company that produces the candies is coming under fire from Consumer Reports for its use of a particular dye.
In a press release issued earlier this week, the consumer advocacy organization said a number of Peeps candies, including the iconic pink marshmallow chicks and bunnies, are made with Red Dye No. 3. This dye is typically used as a color additive in food, despite being banned from use in cosmetics by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Consumer Reports is currently pushing the FDA to ban the use of the dye, which has been linked to cancer in animals, as a food additive. The organization had also sent a letter to Just Born Quality Confections, the maker of Peeps, to urge them to discontinue the use of the dye in March, but said they had yet to get a response from the company.
In Monday’s press release, the organization urged consumers to petition Just Born Quality Confections, the maker of Peeps, to stop using the dye.
“Parents should know that the purple and pink colored Peeps they may be putting in their kids’ Easter baskets are made with an ingredient that is a known carcinogen,” Consumer Reports senior staff scientist Dr. Michael Hansen said. “Just Born Quality Confections should stop making its iconic marshmallow treats with this dangerous food chemical since other less risky alternatives are readily available.”
Red Dye No. 3, meanwhile, isn’t just found in Peeps. The Center for Science in the Public Interest recently noted that the dye, also called “Red 3” or “FD&C Red #3, is found in “hundreds” of candies and foodstuffs, including candy corn, snack cakes, strawberry-flavored products and veggie bacon.
Peeps, however, appear to be the main target of Consumer Reports’ petition ahead of Easter.
Just Born Quality Confections addressed the issue in a statement shared with Nexstar, arguing that Red Dye No. 3 is an approved color additive and all of their candy is made in compliance with FDA regulations.
“We also provide consumers with information on our packaging and our websites to help them make informed choices about our products,” the company said, in part. “Our 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.”
There’s no definitive research to suggest the artificial dye causes cancer in humans, however a study from the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment has found links to “hyperactivity and other neurobehavioral effects in children.”
“The widespread use of Red Dye No. 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,” Hansen said in the Consumer Reports release. “It’s time for the FDA to protect public health by getting Red Dye No. 3 out of our food.”
The FDA has said it is reviewing Consumer Reports’ petition to ban the use of Red Dye No. 3 in food, which had garnered more than 35,000 signatures as of Monday.