Monday 10 August 2009

Insects dye our food?!

Well... this is a shocker:

Turns out that it's legal, and common, for food manufacturers to use
insects as food dye, and they don't have to let us know!!

More specifically,
carminic acid is extracted from the cochineal beetle's body and eggs and used to make carmine dye, a red dye commonly used as food colouring as well as in cosmetics, fabrics, oil paints and watercolours.

Although many foods, including yogourt, ice cream, cheese, butter, fruit-flavoured and alcoholic drinks, meats, pie fillings, jams, baked goods, sauces and candies, use carmine and cochineal extracts as dye, they only have to indicate "artificial colour" or "artificial colour added" to their ingredient lists. Only man-made dyes have to be listed (ie. FD&C No. 40)). As such, we have no idea if we're eating insect extracts or not.

In 2006, the consumer advocacy group the Center for Science in the Public Interest called the FDA to
ban insect-based dyes and provided 32 adverse reation reports it had received. According to the CSPI, "Why tolerate food coloring that sends a couple hundred people to emergency rooms each year...?"

Symptoms reported after eating carmine-containing foods like Yoplait and Danone yogurt, Ocean Spay and Fruitopia juice and Good & Plenty candy included itching, swelling of the eyes and tongue, difficulty breathing, hives and headaches. Moreover, hidden beetle extracts are problematic for vegetarians and vegans, those with specific allergies and people who keep kosher.

In January 2009, the FDA finally ammended the colour additive regulation; foods containing cochineal extract or carmine must declare the presence of the colour additive with either "cochineal extract" or "carmine" in the ingredient list by January 5 2011.

At least it's a start but, according to the CSPI, why not require the ingredient to be listed as "insect-based colouring" rather than using words most people won't understand?
Why the sneakiness?

Thanks Heather for letting me know about this!


lookinout said...

Sometimes I think too much info is what causes the problem. We are as likely (or more) to react to the IDEA of insect-based dyes, as we are to react to the dye itself.


Gina; The Candid RD said...

I have to agree with that first comment. But still, ewwwww! I know I've heard that before, and for about a month I was really weary about it, but I just assume there are probably worse things in foods out there, ya know? Either way, organic is sounding really good right now. Although, bugs are natural, not artifical, so I wonder if it's in organic foods too....interesting.

ingy said...

Thanks for the info Sybs. I think it's really important to know what's in the food we eat.

Nicole, RD said...

Kinda ick to think about, yeah. But I still find it fascinating! Can't be worse than what's in a hot dog, right? ; )


Gary said...

I was a victim of an allergic reaction to Dannon yogurt back in 99', and I wasn't even aware of cochineal's presence until weeks later-so nix the "placebo theory".

Linda said...

I think this is great. I would much rather have boiled bugs for food coloring than chemicals I know nothing about- or worse the manufactures know nothing about. I believe we need to get back to a more natural way of eating and thinking about food. I'm finding it rather difficult but the first step is information.

JessieLynn said...

I JUST had a reaction to Fruitopia's "strawberry passion awareness" today & just got done filling out the online forms to the Coca-Cola & Minute Maid websites to inform them that their product sent me to the hospital today with swelling, a terrible headache & sick feeling,- I had no idea it could have been from this "cochineal extract" until I looked up "dangerous fruitopia ingredients" just now. It makes me SICK that they are allowed to include these ingredients when they're KNOWN to have serious side effects whether they're chemical, natural OR insect based. It's just like the Floride they like to put in our water & beverages to make us "docile" (which the Nazis used in the jews water as well which says alot) These companies care about $, not the people. They obviously can't be trusted.