Carmine is crushed beetles!
09.05.2007Carmine is crushed beetles!
Here is an interesting article about Carmine. Yet another reason to read the ingredient decks of food...and skin care products! Did I tell you that our leading competitor uses this in their lip shimmers?
Article By: Mike Adams
This is not a joke: there are ground up red beetles being used right now as a food coloring ingredient in yogurt, ice cream, juice drinks and many other grocery products. The ingredient is called "carmine."
Carmine is literally made from dried, ground-up red beetles, and its coloring (bright red) is used in yogurt, juice drinks, candies, and a long list of other products, including many "natural" products.
It's not that these red beetles are dangerous. Except for a few individuals who suffer severe allergic reactions to the beetles, most people do just fine eating carmine. Beetles are probably good for you, just like ants. High in protein, low in fat... you get the picture.
But there's a grossness factor that probably explains why products using this ingredient list "carmine" instead of "powdered red beetles" on the label. The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) has even petitioned the FDA to ban carmine(1), or, at the very least, require its clear labeling. The CSPI cites a study conducted by the doctors at the University of Michigan (headed by Dr. Baldwin, University of Michigan Medical Center) that demonstrated carmine can cause a severe allergic reaction known as anaphylaxis -- a condition that can put a person into shock and require hospitalization. But these reactions are extremely rare.
WHY DO MANUFACTURERS USE CARMINE?
People tend to buy foods that look good. The redder the juice drink, for example, the more "alive" it looks. That's why we pick bright-red apples and bright-orange oranges in the grocery store. The vibrant colors tell us, "This is ripe and healthy!"
It's no surprise, then, that consumers purchase food products with vibrant colors. Carmine adds this vibrancy and color to foods, making them more appealing to consumers. In other words, if it looks good, we are more apt to buy it.
There are also technical reasons why carmine is a useful food coloring. If you're curious about what the food manufacturers say about carmine, read: http://www.foodproductdesign.com/archive/1998/0398AP.html
HOW IS CARMINE MADE / WHERE DOES IT COME FROM?
Most carmine used in the United States is imported from Peru and the Canary Islands. They are harvested as follows (Quoted from: www2.labs.agilent.com/botany/cacti_etc/html/news7.html):
"The insects are carefully brushed from the cacti... and placed into bags. The bags are taken to the production plant and there, the insects are then killed by immersion in hot water or by exposure to sunlight, steam or the heat of an oven. It is to be noted that the variance in appearance of commercial cochineal is caused by the different methods used during this process. It takes about 70,000 insects to make one pound (454 gm) of cochineal. The body of one coccineal is said to contain between 18-20% of carminic acid.
The part of the insect that contains the most carmine is the abdomen that houses the fertilized eggs of the coccineal. Once dried, a process begins whereby the abdomens and fertilized eggs are separated from the rest of the anatomical parts. These are then ground into a powder and cooked at temperatures in excess of 212? F (100? C) to extract the maximum amount of color. This cooked solution is filtered and through special processes that cause all carmine particles to precipitate to the bottom of the cooking container. The liquid is removed and the bottom of the container is left with pure carmine."
Yum. Not exactly what you had in mind when you were eating yogurt, was it? The most appetizing part of this description has to be, "...the abdomens and fertilized eggs are separated from the rest of the anatomical parts..."
Click here for the complete article