Amaranth (dye)

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For other uses, see Amaranth (disambiguation).
Amaranth (dye)
Amaranth new.png
Amaranth (dye) ball-and-stick.png
CAS number 915-67-3 YesY
PubChem 6093196
ChemSpider 21169821 YesY
Jmol-3D images Image 1
Molecular formula C20H11N2Na3O10S3
Molar mass 604.47305
Appearance Dark red solid
Melting point 120 °C (decomposes)
R-phrases R36/37/38
S-phrases S36/37/39
Except where noted otherwise, data are given for materials in their standard state (at 25 °C (77 °F), 100 kPa)
 YesY (verify) (what is: YesY/N?)
Infobox references

Amaranth, FD&C Red No. 2, E123, C.I. Food Red 9, Acid Red 27, Azorubin S, or C.I. 16185, is a dark red to purple azo dye once used as a food dye and to color cosmetics, but since 1976 it has been banned in the United States by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as it is a suspected carcinogen.[1] It usually comes as a trisodium salt. It has the appearance of reddish-brown, dark red to purple water-soluble powder that decomposes at 120 °C without melting. Its water solution has absorption maximum at about 520 nm.[2] Amaranth is an anionic dye. It can be applied to natural and synthetic fibers, leather, paper, and phenol-formaldehyde resins. As a food additive it has E number E123. Like all azo dyes, Amaranth was, during the middle of the 20th century, made from coal tar; modern synthetics are more likely to be made from petroleum byproducts.[3][4] 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 color. Its name was taken from amaranth grain, a plant distinguished by its red color and edible protein-rich seeds.


After an incident in 1954 involving FD&C Orange Number 1,[5][6] the FDA retested food colors. In 1960 the FDA was given jurisdiction over color additives, limiting the amounts that could be added to foods and requiring producers of food color to ensure safety and proper labeling of colors. Permission to use food additives was given on a provisional basis, which could be withdrawn should safety issues arise.[6] The FDA gave "generally recognized as safe" (GRAS) provisional status to substances already in use, and extended Red No. 2's provisional status 14 times.

In 1971 a Soviet study linked the dye to cancer.[6] By 1976 over 1 million pounds of the dye worth $5 million was used as a colorant in $10 billion worth of foods, drugs and cosmetics.[7] Consumer activists in the United States, perturbed by what they perceived as collusion between the FDA and food conglomerates,[8] put pressure on the FDA to ban it.[7] FDA Commissioner Alexander Schmidt defended the dye, as he had earlier defended the FDA against collusion accusations in his 1975 book,[8] stating that the FDA found "no evidence of a public health hazard".[7] Testing by the FDA found no undeniable proof of a health hazard, but did find a statistically significant increase in the incidence of malignant tumors in female rats given a high dosage of the dye,[6] and concluded that since there could also no longer be a presumption of safety, that use of the dye should be discontinued.[6] The FDA banned FD&C Red No. 2 in 1976.[7][9] FD&C Red No. 40 (Allura Red AC) replaced the banned Red No. 2.


  1. ^ "The following color additives are not authorized for use in food products in the United States: (1) Amaranth (C.I. 16185, EEC No. E123, formerly certifiable as FD&C red No. 2);" FDA/CFSAN Food Compliance Program: Domestic Food Safety Program
  2. ^ Druglead
  3. ^ Amaranth E123
  4. ^ Craftsman Style
  5. ^ Google Books News
  6. ^ a b c d e Stanley T. Omaye. Food and nutritional toxicology. 
  7. ^ a b c d "Death of a Dye". Time magazine. February 2, 1976. Retrieved 2009-07-07. 
  8. ^ a b "FDA in difficulties". Washington View (New Scientist). Dec 1975. 
  9. ^ "Burger Backs Red Dye Ban Pending Rule". The Hartford Courant. February 14, 1976. Retrieved 2009-07-07. 

See also[edit]