Consumer Reports is warning against certain kinds of Easter and Passover-themed sweets, including the popular Peeps candies, manufactured by Bethlehem-based Just Born Quality Confections.
The consumer advocacy group says pink and purple Peeps as well as some other candies are made with a chemical called Red Dye 3. CR and the Environmental Working Group say studies show the chemical can cause cancer in animals and they believe it poses a risk to people as well, especially children.
The EWG says Red Dye 3 has been linked to hyperactivity in kids and other health dangers. Melanie Benesh of the Environmental Working Group says in 1990, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration determined that Red Dye 3 "is a carcinogen and they banned it in cosmetics and in some kinds of drugs."
Peeps' manufacturer, Just Born, tells Action News the chemical is approved for use by the FDA in candy.
But the EWG says the European Union has banned its use in most foods and Benesh said, "This is really an example of FDA failure to act and then companies acting irresponsibly by not following the science and using the safest ingredients available."
The EWG and Consumer Reports are petitioning for the FDA to ban the chemical and for Just Born to stop using it.
And Red Dye 3 isn't their only concern. They're calling for four other chemicals to be barred, including two found in dark chocolate.
Kevin Loria of Consumer Reports said, "We tested 28 dark chocolate bars, and found concerning levels of cadmium or lead, two toxic heavy metals, in most of them."
For 23 of them, CR says eating just an ounce a day would put an adult over a level that CR's experts say may be harmful.
Loria said, "Kidney damage, hypertension, and reproductive issues are just some of the various health problems associated with consistent, long-term exposure to heavy metals. And the risks for kids are even greater."
The National Confectioners Association, an industry trade group, has said that "lead reductions can be expected within the first year of implementing new handling practices," but lowering cadmium may take longer.
The FDA has reportedly said it is actively reviewing the petition but has previously evaluated Red Dye 3.
The EWG says consumers should check food labels and avoid artificial colors whenever possible. You can also check out its Food Scores database to find candy without potentially worrisome chemicals.
Just Born's full statement:
"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. We also provide consumers with information on our packaging and our websites to help them make informed choices about our products. 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."