While it’s technically legal, I do believe they do it to keep consumers in the dark. After all, if we knew what they were putting in there would we keep eating it? Because of this, I’m going to start a series of posts of some of the most disgusting additives in food and share with you what they are and why I avoid them.
Today is carmine (sometimes listed as carminic acid or Natural Red 4). It’s found in tons of food products that are red and even purple, and is made from drying thousands of bugs, then reconstituting them in alum, cream of tartar, stannous chloride, or potassium hydrogen oxalate.
Carmine (pronounced /ˈkɑrmɪn/ or /ˈkɑrmaɪn/), also called Crimson Lake, Cochineal, Natural Red 4, C.I. 75470, or E120, is a pigment of a bright red color obtained from the carminic acid produced by some scale insects, such as the cochineal and the Polish cochineal, and is used as a general term for a particularly deep red color of the same name. Carmine is used in the manufacture of artificial flowers, paints, crimson ink, rouge, and other cosmetics, and is routinely added to food products such as yoghurt and certain brands of juice, most notably those of the ruby-red variety. – Wikipedia
Disturbingly, I found Red 4 listed as an ingredient in Yoplait Whips Raspberry flavor. Are there no raspberries in it? The light pink color of the yogurt certainly could be obtained by adding raspberries, why the bug juice? Seriously? I’m not a bug lover, but I certainly can think of other ways to color something! And can you believe that LEGALLY they can list this as a natural coloring!
“Cochineal extract and carmine are ideally suited and utilized for a variety of food products, including meat, sausages, and red marinades. Cochineal and its derivatives find further important application in fruit preparations, jams, gelatin desserts, juice beverages, non-carbonated soft-drinks, baked goods, confections, icings, toppings and dairy products.” – Source www.wildflavors.com
So, who cares? I do! Some people are allergic and suffer skin problems or even worse, the dye can induce an anaphylactic-shock reaction in a small number of people, due to impurities in the preparation, not due to the carminic acid.1 More importantly, there are other, truly natural ways, to color things and as a vegetarian, I’m opposed to what I consider mislabeling. And am I wrong in blaming the manufacturers when it’s really the consumers that insist on bright red products? Or should I be mad at the government for not making manufactures put the truth on the label? Should it be labeled, “dehydrated and reconstituted scale bugs” instead of “natural coloring”? Would you eat it if it was labeled correctly?
There are alternatives, especially for the home baker. India Tree Natural Food Coloring and Decorating Sugars is one brand that is made from concentrated liquid vegetable colorants. Yes, they cost more, but the more people decide it’s time to eat true natural food, the cheaper they’ll become. To find others, use your favorite search engine and search for Vegan Food Colors.
So I’m wondering, will you continue to eat Yoplait and other red foods knowing how it’s colored? Just curious if I’m overly sensitive. Check your freezer, refrigerator, and pantry and let me know what other items you find.
1 – Source: http://www.food-info.net/uk/colour/cochineal.htm