M&Ms colors throughout the years
That were sad days without red M&M’s.
What’s interesting is that Mars stopped producing them even though they didn’t actually contain the red dye that was causing concern as being carcinogenic.
Red candies were eliminated in 1976 because of health concerns over the dye amaranth (FD&C Red #2), which was a suspected carcinogen, and were replaced with orange-colored candies. This was done despite the fact that M&M’s did not contain the dye; the action was purely to satisfy worried consumers. Red candies were reintroduced ten years later, but they also kept the orange colored M&M’s. They currently contain Allura Red AC (FD&C Red #40, E129).
In Europe, Allura Red AC is not recommended for consumption by children. It is banned in Denmark, Belgium, France, Germany, Switzerland, Sweden, Austria, and Norway. Instead, Cochineal (E120) is used in the red shells.
Mars stopped producing the red candies even though they did not use suspected carcinogenic red dye, but when they reintroduced the candies they used a red dye not recommended for consumption by children in Europe (though not banned) because it is a suspected carcinogen.
Oh, and the carcinogenic red dye that M&M’s never contained, is still used as a food additive in Europe.
Amaranth’s use is still legal in some countries, notably in the United Kingdom where it is most commonly used to give Glacé cherries their distinctive colour.