Around Valentine’s Day and Christmas, red M&M’s dominate the candy aisles – but it hasn’t always been that way. These classic chocolate candies were absent from store shelves across the United States for more than a decade because of their color.
In 1976, Mars, the candy company that makes M&M’s, eliminated the red version of the candies from their mix. This decision came as a result of public controversy surrounding a synthetic dye called FD&C Red No. 2, also known as amaranth. The dye was used in red food coloring and was linked to cancer in a 1971 Russian study.
Because Red No. 2 was used to color many food products in the U.S., including hot dog casings and ice cream, the public demanded that the government confirm the dye’s safety. The Food and Drug Administration’s subsequent tests produced inconclusive results in humans, but found that it caused malignant tumors in female rats. The FDA concluded that the food colorant could not be presumed to be safe for human consumption and banned it in 1976. Read the whole story here.