Did you know that there are Cochineal insects products and foods made with crushed bugs? Are the large food companies bugging our food? Today people are consuming a lot of food infused with chemicals in the form of coloring agents and preservatives. We don’t even know the composition of such products. But bugs? Could you gulp them? Other than being featured in ‘Fear Factor’, I don’t see how a person would be willing to eat bugs, though their consumption is indeed more common in some parts of the world. Cochineal extract is a coloring agent which is comprised of about 90% insect-body fragments. The red coloring is derived from the ground body of the female cochineal insect and used to color juices, candies, apple sauce, ice cream, fruit fillings, baked goods, and other processed foods, as well as some cosmetics. It’s not new and has been used as a food coloring option for years.
Though the FDA has permitted the usage of a certain amount of these insect contaminants as safe, it can definitely ick you out. It is not unsafe to eat these “processed” foods (amongst others that we consume) but many people are allergic to these bugs. Many companies started using these cochineal insect products and made foods with crushed bugs as they found it to be a natural substitute for artificial flavors, colors, and preservatives. Though it helped them save on costs, vegan customers are not in favor of such extracts, as they refuse to consume anything animal-related. A petition was signed by many vegan consumers on Change.org demanding more transparency and accuracy in labeling of food products.
The agency did not ban these coloring agents because they caused no harm to the public; however, it proposed companies more clearly label their food items which use it. According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, approximately 40,000 cochineal bugs are needed to produce one pound of cochineal extract for carminic acid. Until 2009, cochineal was one of many dyes that fell under the umbrella term “natural color” on ingredients lists.
We list a few cochineal insects products: foods made with crushed bugs below. It will be surprising to learn about the companies, some of which are large and well-known brands, that have been using or have used in the past, cochineal insects products to make their food more attractive (oddly enough). However, some of them, like Starbucks, have discontinued using them on account of consumer protests.
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