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28 January 2006

shut up and eat your crushed beetles

female / male
(filched from Wikipedia,
kosher kopyright)


Domain: Eukaryota
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Hemiptera
Family: Dactylopiidae
Genus: Dactylopius
Species: D. coccus

The Wall Street Journal (USA)
pickup in Dallas/Fort Worth (Texas USA) Star-Telegram
Saturday 28 January 2006

US Food and Drug
Administration
proposes listing
bug ingredients in food

By JANE ZHANG
The Wall Street Journal


Food makers may not want to dwell on it, but the ingredient that gives Dannon boysenberry yogurt and Tropicana ruby red grapefruit juice their distinctive colors comes from crushed female cochineal beetles.

Too much information? Some consumers would say there hasn't been nearly enough.

Pressured by consumer advocates, the Food and Drug Administration published a food-labeling proposal online Friday that would require companies to disclose when a food contains beetle-derived colorings including vivid-red "carmine" and bright-orange "cochineal" (pronounced coach-in-EEL). The public has 60 days to comment before a final ruling is made.

Under FDA regulations, food labels must identify certain man-made colorings by name, such as FD&C Red No. 40.

But for carmine, cochineal and other naturally occurring ingredients, companies can use terms such as "color added" or, oddly, "artificial color."

Bugged by the loophole, the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a Washington public-health advocacy group, and a small but vocal group of consumers who are allergic to the ingredients have pushed for stiffer rules.

Joining the chorus are vegetarians, who don't want to eat insects, and consumers observing kosher dietary practices.

Products containing carmine "may look like kosher," but they aren't, says Rabbi Moshe Elefant, chief operating officer of the kosher division of the Orthodox Union, a leading certifier of kosher products. "There are a lot of people who will not be happy to know that they are eating products that contain dried beetle."

A petition that CSPI submitted to the FDA in 1998 and complaints from allergic consumers spurred the FDA's proposal. The petition suggested that labels disclose carmine or cochineal content with the language "Artificial color: carmine/cochineal extract (insect based)."

The food industry objects to the word "insect" and the use of "artificial color" together with "carmine" and "cochineal."

"That lengthy type of description is likely to be unnecessary," says Robert Earl, senior director of nutrition policy at Food Products Association, a food- and beverage-industry group. "It's not part of the requirement for other animal-derived ingredients. Lard is 'lard.' It doesn't say 'pork' after it. 'Milk' doesn't say 'from cow.'"

The FDA's proposal dropped the word "insect" and will require that the coloring ingredients be labeled as vivid-red "carmine" or bright-orange "cochineal," said FDA spokeswoman Julie Zawisza.

Some food companies -- Dannon, PepsiCo, the maker of Tropicana; and General Mills, the maker of Yoplait yogurt -- have already begun listing "carmine" on labels by name. Others have taken steps to eliminate carmine from products, replacing it in some cases with synthetic colorings.

Even when they are clearly listed on the label, cochineal and carmine remain a mystery to many consumers.

The bugs are raised on farms in Peru, Mexico and the Canary Islands, where they feed on cactuses. The bodies of female beetles are dried, ground and heated, and the colored powder is filtered out.

Vegetarians are also rooting for the label change.

A year ago, while sitting at a movie theater, Lucinda Hoffmaster first saw the word "carmine" on a box of Hershey Co.'s Good & Plenty candies. Not knowing what the word meant, the Montgomery, Ala., resident went home and looked up the word on the Internet. "I was just horrified," recalls Hoffmaster, 57, the mother of two vegetarian daughters.

Hershey declined to comment.

- 30 -

Recent Comments

* Probably eating crushed beetles is harmless as I have been...

* People do have bug allergies.Therfore the food industry should be...

* Why are the manufacturers allowed to use terminology that the...

* i don't think the food industry should be putting any bugs in food...

* This is disgusting! I firmly believe that we should be made aware...

4 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

They shouldn't color food at all. Colored food can go bad but stay the same color. Who needs to eat dyes of any type? I am totally against colorings which are synthetic or made of things people wouldn't normally eat.

11:12  
Blogger Bob Merkin said...

Gosh, is this really so controversial that you have to be Anonymous about your feelings? I don't think Homeland Security has gotten around yet to warrantless NSA wiretappings of people who object to weird food dyes. (Ruby Red Grapefruit Juice used to be my fave until I just discovered it's Ruby Red because of Crushed Bug Guts.)

11:19  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Disgusting
people have the right to know what they`re eating
comaring lard to insects?
funny what`s the differnece between smooth skin and rash
nothing at all in their opinion
still skin right?
just as they`re both animals?
that`s sophistry

07:28  
Blogger David said...

Beware, this ingredient has shown up in Trader Joe's Meatless (and further advertised as "vegetarian") corn dogs. They are not responding to emails.

16:51  

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