Red 40: A Halloween a Horror Story

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There is a monster more terrifying than any I’ve ever seen. Wild-eyed and angry, the monster will scream, punch, kick, spit, and flail with seemingly no provocation. This monster has been known to attack people and break expensive objects. Once her terror has started, the only thing anyone can do is ride it out.

This monster is my four-year-old daughter. And for the past two years or so, we have had no idea what to do.

The really heart-breaking part was that she is so sweet. And so loving. And so polite.

Except when she wasn’t.

And then about a year ago while she was throwing a fit in ballet, another Mom suggested I look at the food dye in her diet. Especially red.

Seriously? Food dye? Not, like, sugar or caffeine or something? Food dye?

There’s no way that’s a thing.

So we basically ignored it. And the gremlin would come out just as if we’d fed her after midnight.

Eventually, we decided to consider the idea. We found fruit snacks without food coloring. And we made sure her juice didn’t have it. And that’s about as far as we took it.

Then one night in September our family went bowling. We had a blast. It was just the three of us and the disco lights were on and we were laughing and having a great time together. And as we bowled, our little sweetheart ate Starbursts. It was a “berry” package. In other words, every single piece had red 40.

We got in the car after an enjoyable evening. And our little gremlin lost it. I mean LOST IT. We both had to get out of the car and lock her in while she screamed and cried and threw herself around. She broke the windshield wipers from banging on the console. Every time we tried to get near her she would hit and spit at us. After 45 minutes or so she broke down and cried while I held her. And we knew something had to change.

Mostly as an experiment, we took all of the food coloring out of her world for a few days.

And she hasn’t had a violent tantrum since. Not one. She’s still four. And she’s still strong-willed. But she’s finally the little girl we always knew she was.

It hasn’t been easy. We’ve had to do a lot of research and we’ve learned how common Red 40 really is. We carry organic lollipops to offer her if someone else has a treat she can’t have. And we try to prepare her for disappointments. She’s attended two birthday parities since we took food dye out of her diet. Both parties featured pretty pink cupcakes. But she didn’t eat them. We’ve decided that Red 40 must have made her feel pretty lousy. Because honestly she doesn’t even fight us for it. She can’t have it. It makes her sick. She doesn’t want it.

Yesterday was Halloween. We were worried. Will she really give up the treats she can’t have? We told her she could trade them in for a present or even different candy. But when we got home, we noticed something shocking. She didn’t have anything with food coloring. She just didn’t take any. Her friends’ bags were filled with Sweet Tarts and gummy bears and a rainbow of treats. Our little girl had chosen chocolate and pretzels. There were three houses- only three- who just handed her candy that had food coloring. And when we got home she handed them to Daddy. Can’t have ‘Em. Doesn’t want ’em. Proud Mommy.

There’s more to this story of course. The fact that it’s only some kids. And what we can give them instead. And I’ll post those things in a follow-up. But for today, I’m happy to sit back and be proud of my dye-free kitty princess.

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4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: Red #40 Part 2: FAQ | Thoroughly Modern Mommy
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