iBerkshires.com Columnist SectionSue Bush
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Got Beetles?By Susan Bush
12:00AM / Tuesday, April 11, 2006
Some foods are being deliberately "bugged," and many consumers have been none the wiser.
|Carmine, a beetle-based red colorant, is listed as an ingredient in these food products.|
That may soon change.
The federal Food and Drug Administration is considering requiring food and cosmetic manufacturers that use a red dye made from crushed beetles to list the ingredient on product labels. Currently, the coloring, identified as "carmine" or "cochineal extract," may appear as "artificial color," "E120," "color added," or "natural color."
According to a summary of the FDA proposal, "The proposed rule responds to reports of severe allergic reactions, including anaphylaxis, to cochineal extract and carmine-containing food and cosmetics and would allow consumers who are allergic to these color additives to identify and thus avoid products that contain these color additives."
According to FDA media spokesman Michael Herndon, the proposed labeling regulation stops short of forcing product manufacturers to list the dye as "insect-based."
Truth In Labeling, Please
And that is unfair to consumers, according to a local woman who asked to remain anonymous.
The woman said she became aware of the beetle-based coloring when she read the ingredient label on a container of strawberry flavored yogurt purchased at a local market. Because she was not familiar with the term "carmine," she investigated, and was "disgusted" to learn that carmine is made from crushed beetle bodies.
A spot check of various products at local markets found "carmine" listed as an ingredient in specific Dannon and Yoplait yogurt flavors as well as some Tropicana juice varieties. The absence of a "carmine" or "cochineal extract" listing does not mean that the ingredient is not in the product because at present, manufacturers are not required to specifically identify it.
Beet It, Just Beet It
A review of additional products that are red in color found that in many cases, the red hue is derived from sources including beet juice and red cabbage juice. The woman said that she believes those types of dye should be used in foods instead of carmine.
The woman provided a copy of an e-mail communication she sent to Yoplait's consumer services division.
"Please stop using carmine in your strawberry products," she wrote. "I recently purchased a lot of your yogurt and while eating a strawberry one, I read the ingredients. Not knowing what carmine is, I looked it up. I was disgusted to find it in your product. Use beet juice like you do in cherry and raspberry. I've returned all the strawberry for other flavors."
The woman received a reply from the company.
"Thank you for contacting Yoplait regarding carmine used in Yoplait yogurt. Carmine is a naturally derived red color extracted from the dried shells of the cochineal beetle. Carmine is an FDA approved ingredient and is commonly used in many foods such as ice cream, soft drinks, sweets, and candies. We appreciate the opportunity to share this information with you and we will forward your comments to the appropriate individuals."
The presence of carmine may pose a problem for vegetarians and those who "keep kosher" as well as those with specific allergies.
Public Comment Period Ends May 1
The FDA action is a result of several reports of severe allergic reactions allegedly involving the dye. And eight years ago, in 1998, the Center for Science in the Public Interest submitted a petition asking that the FDA act and require product manufacturers to list the ingredient on its labels. The CSPI has asked that manufacturers be made to include the phrase "insect-based" as well.
A public comment period focused on the FDA proposal is currently active. Consumers may submit comments about carmine and its' inclusion on ingredient labels until May 1. Electronic submissions may be sent via a federal rulemaking portal:
Written submissions may be faxed to 1-301-827-6870.
Comments may be mailed to Division of Dockets Management [HFA-305], Food and Drug Administration, 5630 Fishers Lane Room 1061, Rockville, Maryland, 20852.
All comments must include the agency name, a docket number and a regulatory information number. The docket number for the carmine proposal is "Docket No.1998P-0724" and the RIN number is "0910-AF12."
Here is a link to the proposed rule:
Susan Bush may be reached via e-mail at email@example.com or at 802-823-9367.
|First I would like to say that cochineal is NOT a beetle but rather a scale bug from the order Hemiptera (Coleoptera is the order of beetles). Secondly cochineal extract began being used as a commercial food dye after synthetic dyes were found to be carcinogenic; cochineal is relatively healthy in comparison. |
I do support additive being labeled as an insect product as it is not kosher, vegans may want to avoid it, and some people have allergic reactions to cochineal extract. However, I would not compare its use to insects in restaurants. Cochineals are bred in controlled environments and are relatively clean feeding only on cactus, while insects in restaurants can carry diseases.
|from: Tessa||on: 11-28 00:00:00-2007|
|The fact that I may have been eating BUGS and did not know it actually disgusts me. If I wanted to eat bugs I would go into my backyard and dig me up some. So, if there are beetles in my yogurt and juice, what else is in there that I don't know about or want to consume? I would never have imagined that a company as big as yoplait, dannon, and tropicana would actually put bugs in their products. So if they are using insects in their products and supposedly it is legal, why do restaurants get fined by the health department for having bugs? No matter how you look at it, a BUG IS A BUG! Get them out of my food!|
|from: Lacey||on: 08-10 00:00:00-2006|