Foodfacts.com has been wondering: seen a fly in your soup lately? Well, that’s nothing compared with what you don’t see in your strawberry yogurt or the sprinkles on your doughnut.
Crushed bugs. You’ve been eating them for years. You just didn’t know it.
That’s right. The “color added” ingredient in some red, pink and purple foods is carmine, the dried and crushed bodies of the female cochineal insect. The cactus-loving insect is used to color ice cream, yogurt, fruit juices and more.
“They’re harvested in Mexico, processed in large plants. I’ve seen them,” said Gary Reineccius, Ph.D., professor of food science at the University of Minnesota.
You may not have known, because they were hiding under the “color added” listing on the label, but you soon will. Starting in January, the Food and Drug Administration is requiring manufacturers to switch from the “color added” label listing to “carmine” or “cochineal extract.”
Consumers should know what’s going into their food “to promote safe, healthy diets,” said Michael Jacobson, Ph.D., executive director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest and part of the effort to require manufacturers to change their product labels.
Ingredients such as carmine have come under fire because they have been known to cause severe allergic reactions in some people. Those allergic reactions, along with a few subsequent lawsuits, have led some manufacturers to stop using carmine.
Other people with dietary restrictions, such as Jews and Muslims, may not consider some products kosher if these ingredients are included. But even those without restrictions might be a little squeamish if they knew just what was going into some of their food. The CSPI wants the FDA to go even further, labeling carmine as insects on packaging. After all, few people recognize carmine or cochineal as something that comes from insects.
People would be disgusted if they knew crushed bugs were in their food, Dr. Jacobson said. “We urge the FDA to at least indicate these ingredients are of insect origins, but the industry opposes that because nobody would buy the product.”
Using ingredients like carmine can be deceptive, Dr. Jacobson said, because the color it gives to products makes it appear as though there is real fruit included when there often isn’t.
Some other surprising food ingredients with an ick factor include:
-Shellac: The secretions from the lac beetle found in India and Thailand are used to give confections such as Skittles and candy sprinkles a shiny coating.
“Nothing synthetic does this as well,” Dr. Reineccius said, adding that, yes, it’s the same shellac that’s used to finish wood.
-Rennet: An enzyme taken from veal calves at the time of slaughter is added to milk to make cheese. A nonanimal version is microbial enzyme. It sounds better when it’s listed as “vegetable rennet” on cheese labels.
-Castoreum: It’s a secretion from the anal glands of beavers, used mostly in perfumes and sometimes to enhance raspberry flavor in candies and fillings.
Source: The Times Tribune
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