I watched a Canadian news show last night. It stated that cochineal beetles are being killed, dried and ground and then added to food - it adds a red colour to food and this is done apparently, so the food labels can claim, "natural colour" is used, as opposed to "artificial colour."
In Canada, that is all the label needs to say, however, in the USA, the rules are more stringent and this additive "beetle juice" is given the name, "cochineal" or, "carmine." The report stated that some people do have allergies, and one little boy was critically ill until it was discovered that this additive was in his yogurt.
When you dig into a strawberry Yoplait yogurt, take a moment to contemplate where the beautiful pink color comes from. Strawberries? Think again. It comes from crushed bugs. Specifically, from the female cochineal beetles and their eggs. And it's not just yogurt.
The crushed, dried insects create a brilliant red dye used in some cheese, yogurt, ice cream, candies, fruit drinks, alcoholic drinks and cosmetics to make them pink, purple or reddish.
The industry moved to the bugs because of concerns about artificial colorings' links to cancer, including the now-banned Red Dye No. 2.
You won't find "crushed bugs" on the list of ingredients for any of these foods, however. Companies have a bit of latitude in describing exactly what they put in our food. Many larger companies, such as General Mills, the manufacturer of Yoplait and Pepsi, the maker of Tropicana, identify the dye in their products as either carmine, or cochineal extract. Still, many companies simply list "artificial color" on their ingredients list without giving any details.
While shocking, it's perfectly legal, the paper reports. Food makers don't have to list the bug-based ingredient, because beetles are part of nature. Only man-made dyes, like FD&C Red No. 40, have to be listed.
But that may change soon. The Food and Drug Administration may recommend that companies list beetle additives as "carmine" or "cochineal."
Why? Using beetles in food may prove problematic for vegetarians, people who keep kosher and for those with certain food allergies. The public health advocacy group Center for Science in the Public Interest has long asked the FDA to change the requirements for food labels so that they more clearly state ingredients that could conflict with people's diets or trigger allergies
"I think it's more common because it's considered a more natural extract," said Christina Dewitt, an Oklahoma State University food chemist. "Anything that comes from a plant or animal is an extract that is considered not artificial. Those are not artificial. Natural colorings have become more popular."
Some manufacturers voluntarily list cochineal or carmine on labels. The Oklahoman found that strawberry Yoplait yogurt and Jumex strawberry nectar labels list the substance. Other foods and drinks contain the extract but list it as "natural coloring," as is currently allowed.
In two years, the labelling will be mandatory to protect human health. The government is clamping down because researchers have found that the insect extract has caused severe reactions. Food product should indicate that it comes from insects so that consumers at least can avoid the product.
Published On: August 10, 2009