Does Coke Have Red Dye? (Answered)

Red dye, particularly Red 40, is a favorite color additive used by soda manufacturers to make their beverages more appealing. But, does Coke have red dye? If not, does The Coca-Cola Company use a different color additive to give Coke its color? You will find the answer below!

Red Dye In Coke?

Coca-Cola (Coke) does not contain red dye. It is a dark brown color so red coloring is not necessary.

Rather, Coke is colored with caramel color, a popular color additive that is in many colas including Pepsi. It is made by heating a carbohydrate such as sucrose, fructose, or invert syrup with a reactant like an acid, salt, or alkali to start the caramelization process.

You can determine the type of dye used in a soda, if any, by reviewing its ingredients. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires that synthetic and even color additives from natural sources be disclosed in the ingredients.

A review of Coke’s ingredients (see below) shows that it contains caramel color. If it had red dye, an example of an ingredient that would be listed would be β€œRed 40”.

Original Coca-Cola Ingredients: Carbonated Water, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Caramel Color, Phosphoric Acid, Natural Flavors, Caffeine.

In case you were wondering, Coca-Cola would be clear if it did not have caramel color added to it. This was confirmed by the company on Twitter,

Is Caramel Color Safe?

You might be relieved to find out that Coke does not have red dye given it is a controversial ingredient. However, there are certainly potential concerns with caramel color as well, despite it being approved for use in foods and beverages by health agencies such as the FDA.

A potential concern with caramel color is that the cooking process can produce a chemical compound known as 4-methylimidazole (4-MEI). A study found that 4-MEI increased the tumor rate in rodents. It was also found to produce developmental and reproductive issues in a different study of rodents. However, these studies used levels of 4-MEI that far exceeded what humans would consume.

Overall, the FDA deems caramel color to be safe since people do not consume enough of it to be dangerous based on what is known through current research. Caramel color provides no benefit to the body so eliminating it from your diet is an option. There are countless other nutritious foods and beverages without color additives that will help you maintain a healthy lifestyle.

McAvoy, S. A. (2017, June 7). Color additives. Sensient Food Colors. Retrieved December 17, 2022, from
Is caramel color safe? – learn: DDW the color house. DDW. (2021, March 24). Retrieved December 23, 2022, from