My local pharmacist—I still believe in a face-to-face personal pharmacist—helped me select a multi-vitamin. Yes, I still believe that with food being sent long distances and held for who-knows-how-long, it is a good idea to make up for disappearing nutrients with a multi-vitamin pill. My problem is that many of the newer vitamins are like swallowing a rock.


The pharmacist looked over the selection and handed me a bottle of “old fashioned” plain, small pills without the hype that they can lower cholesterol, are specially designed for women and all those sorts of claims. I purchased the bottle.


When I returned home, I put them on the shelf and then I noticed they were bright red. Why? I have been hard at work on both my Consumer’s Dictionary of Food Additives and A Consumer’s Dictionary of Cosmetic Ingredients.


Colors of both natural and synthetic origin are extensively used in food, cosmetics and pills. When the letters FD & C precede a color it means the color can be used in a food, drug, or cosmetic. When D & C precede the color, it signifies that it can only be used in drugs or cosmetics, but not in food. Ext. D & C before a color means that it is certified for external use only in drugs and cosmetics and may not be used on the lips or mucous membranes.


I put on my glasses and read the small print on the label with difficulty. I finally found the color listing—it was Red 40.


FD & C Red No. 40 is one of the most widely used colorings in the United States. Its safety has long been questioned because it was rushed to market and many scientists feel that it should not have been given permanent listing just based solely on the manufacturer’s tests.


A multitude of our products that we swallow or paint on ourselves are colored.  Among the natural colors widely used are alkanet, annatto, carotene, chlorophyll, cochineal, saffron, and turmeric. The market for natural colors is expanding worldwide because the aware consumer is increasingly conscious about side effects associated with prolonged use of some synthetic coloring compounds.


The United Kingdom last year issued a ban on the synthetic colorings Tartrazine Yellow, Quinoline Yellow, Sunset yellow, Carmoisine Red, Ponceau Red and Allura Red. That last in the United States is labeled Red No.40.


The British believe scientists have shown the colorings they are trying to ban have an adverse affect on the behavior of children. Many American scientists feel that the safety of FD & C Red No. 40, in particular, is far from established, particularly because all the tests were conducted by the manufacturer. Therefore, the dye should not have received a permanent safety rating, especially since The National Cancer Institute reported that p-credine, a chemical used in the preparation of FD & C Red No. 40, was a cancer-causing agent in animals.


So now my face is red because I didn’t really read the label on the vitamin pills carefully in the store. I am now in a hard place. Do I swallow a vitamin “rock” or opt for the little Red 40 colored vitamin pill?

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