I was watching Food Detectives this morning when an interesting story came on. How do manufacturers get color in their foods? I was appalled at one answer and did some research of my own. The following is taken from a Website called Natural News"
"Ground up beetles found in yogurt — carmine serves as insect-based food coloring ingredient"
"This is not a joke: there are ground up red beetles being used right now as a food coloring ingredient in yogurt, ice cream, juice drinks and many other grocery products. The ingredient is called "carmine."
Carmine is literally made from dried, ground-up red beetles, and its coloring (bright red) is used in yogurt, juice drinks, candies, and a long list of other products, including many "natural" products.
It’s not that these red beetles are dangerous. Except for a few individuals who suffer severe allergic reactions to the beetles, most people do just fine eating carmine. Beetles are probably good for you, just like ants. High in protein, low in fat… you get the picture.
But there’s a grossness factor that probably explains why products using this ingredient list "carmine" instead of "powdered red beetles" on the label. The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) has even petitioned the FDA to ban carmine(1), or, at the very least, require its clear labeling. The CSPI cites a study conducted by the doctors at the University of Michigan (headed by Dr. Baldwin, University of Michigan Medical Center) that demonstrated carmine can cause a severe allergic reaction known as anaphylaxis — a condition that can put a person into shock and require hospitalization. But these reactions are extremely rare.
WHY DO MANUFACTURERS USE CARMINE?
People tend to buy foods that look good. The redder the juice drink, for example, the more "alive" it looks. That’s why we pick bright-red apples and bright-orange oranges in the grocery store. The vibrant colors tell us, "This is ripe and healthy!"
It’s no surprise, then, that consumers purchase food products with vibrant colors. Carmine adds this vibrancy and color to foods, making them more appealing to consumers. In other words, if it looks good, we are more apt to buy it.
There are also technical reasons why carmine is a useful food coloring. If you’re curious about what the food manufacturers say about carmine, read: http://www.foodproductdesign.com/ar…
HOW IS CARMINE MADE / WHERE DOES IT COME FROM?
Most carmine used in the United States is imported from Peru and the Canary Islands. They are harvested as follows (Quoted from: www2.labs.agilent.com/botany/cacti_etc/html/news7.html):
"The insects are carefully brushed from the cacti… and placed into bags. The bags are taken to the production plant and there, the insects are then killed by immersion in hot water or by exposure to sunlight, steam or the heat of an oven. It is to be noted that the variance in appearance of commercial cochineal is caused by the different methods used during this process. It takes about 70,000 insects to make one pound (454 gm) of cochineal. The body of one coccineal is said to contain between 18-20% of carminic acid.
The part of the insect that contains the most carmine is the abdomen that houses the fertilized eggs of the coccineal. Once dried, a process begins whereby the abdomens and fertilized eggs are separated from the rest of the anatomical parts. These are then ground into a powder and cooked at temperatures in excess of 212? F (100? C) to extract the maximum amount of color. This cooked solution is filtered and through special processes that cause all carmine particles to precipitate to the bottom of the cooking container. The liquid is removed and the bottom of the container is left with pure carmine."
Yum. Not exactly what you had in mind when you were eating yogurt, was it? The most appetizing part of this description has to be, "…the abdomens and fertilized eggs are separated from the rest of the anatomical parts…"
I went and raided my fridge and I was thrilled to see my Yoplait had red #40 in it which as snopes points out is made from good ole coal and is bug free. However after reading another article on AOL about other foods that are color enhanced I also discovered that "artificial color" could also mean BUGS with out them saying it. If you would like to read further to see what other common foods you eat that are fed coloring, click into this article.
Finally this blogger wrote to Yoplait and Dannon themselves and received responses from both, Dannon even sent a list of all of their yogurts containing ground up bugs. To see their response and list click here.
Other foods with carmine: pink lemonades, grapefruit juices, maraschino cherries, and Tropicana Orange Strawberry Banana Juice.
I think I will stop eating red food from now on unless it is specifically labeled that it is dyed with beet juice or red #40 and no NATURAL COLORING. While it seems not all flavors of Yoplait have this dye in it, I just feel like there is no way to be sure or trust them. I’m off to trash my Yoplait that almost had me fooled! And also puke!
*I want to make a note. I’m not actually bothered there are bugs in the food. Yes, I understand that animals are a normal part of society in food. What bothers me the most is the way it is labeled. I am frustrated that food companies can’t just be honest. While researching this I was shocked to find that there are a number of people allergic to this beetle and they don’t know they have ingested it until they have a reaction, simply because the label said, "natural coloring." As a vegetarian it bugs me that things can’t be labeled honestly. My sons pediasure has taurine in it. If I was raising him a vegetarian I would be pretty annoyed to discover that. I only know that taurine is an animal product because someone passed this random fact on to me, not because it is common knowledge. I guess I just believe people deserve honesty in food. Which is why I usually spend a little more money on organics…and I prefer to cook my own dinner from scratch then wonder what is in my food.
*Natural News http://www.naturalnews.com/001529.html
*Pigments through the ages shows great pictures of the beetle and process