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!