Cochineal extract or Red dye 40 – what’s your poison?

With the recent article about cochineal extract being present in Starbuck’s strawberry frapprucino  mix one has to ask why. Why drink anything artificial first of all. Why drink anything with cochineal extract secondly.

Sure cochineal extract is natural… ; cochineal is a bug that is known for its red coloring.

” Cochineal is a dye made from dried and ground female bodies of the scale insect Dactylopius coccus costa (Coccus cacti L.). Powdered cochineal is dark purplish red. The chief coloring principle in cochineal is carminic acid, a hydroxyanthraquinone linked to a glucose unit. Cochineal contains approximately 10 percent carminic acid; the remainder consists of insect body fragments.” FDA

That’s right – a bug. While I understand that a lot of food contains traces of insects , why would one deliberately choose to drink a substance that admits to using a bug – simply for colour? These bugs are used in drinks and lipsticks. Yes, you heard me right. Lipsticks. See the word carmine?

Canthaxanthin is also used, also not always vegan – it’s an animal product found in shrimp, flamingos as well as created in the lab.

In 2010 the The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau proposed to revise its regulations to require the disclosure of the presence of cochineal extract and carmine on the labels of any alcohol beverage product containing one or both of these color additives – following in the FDA footsteps. This move was due to many severe allergic reactions from people unknowingly drinking these two additives. The makeup industry was also required to add this info to their labels.

There are 9 synthetically ( human made )  certified colours. A colour additive is any pigment , dye or substance that is added to food, cosmetics or drugs. Generally colours are added to make something look more pleasing.. fresh … desirable.

Certified colours are divided into two groups – dyes and lakes.

Dyes are water soluble and are found in powders, granular form. Dyes are often used in drinks, mixes,pet food, baking mixes and dairy products as well as other products.

Lakes are the water insoluble colours and they are found in your fats, oils, hard candy, gum, donuts, etc.

While the natural dyes ( animal , plant , mineral ) were exempt from certification ; this did not mean that they were necessarily safe ( as shown by reactions in workers in the cochineal production lines as well as others ). Hence the update. However, the natural additives are generally more expensive and added unwanted flavor to the product at times – so artificial colours and flavors are often used.

Many people have allergic reactions to Yellow #5.

This is the certified list from

FD&C Blue No. 1
Brilliant Blue FCF
Bright blue Beverages, dairy products, dessert powders, jellies, confections, condiments, icings, syrups, extracts
FD&C Blue No. 2
Royal blue Baked goods, cereals, snack foods, ice cream, confections, cherries
FD&C Green No. 3
Fast Green FCF
Sea green Beverages, puddings, ice cream, sherbet, cherries, confections, baked goods, dairy products
FD&C Red No. 40
Allura Red AC
Orange-red Gelatins, puddings, dairy products, confections, beverages, condiments
FD&C Red No. 3
Cherry red Cherries in fruit cocktail and in canned fruits for salads, confections, baked goods, dairy products, snack foods
FD&C Yellow No. 5
Lemon yellow Custards, beverages, ice cream, confections, preserves, cereals
Cereals, baked goods, snack foods, ice cream, beverages, dessert powders, confections

FD&C Yellow No. 6
Sunset Yellow 
Colors Exempt from Certification
Annatto extract Beta-carotene B-Apo-8′-carotenal*
Canthaxanthin Beet powder Carrot oil
Caramel color Cottonseed flour, toasted
partially defatted, cooked
Cochineal extract (carmine)
Fruit juice Ferrous gluconate* Grape skin extract* (enocianina)
Grape color extract* Paprika oleoresin Paprika
Saffron Riboflavin Turmeric
Titanium dioxide* Vegetable juice Turmeric oleoresin
*Restricted to specific uses


5 thoughts on “Cochineal extract or Red dye 40 – what’s your poison?

  1. Whoa. Very interesting, and appalling. I know I always read the labels of anything I buy at the grocery store, but I still feel so unaware of what companies are putting in my food. Artificials, additives… It all seems so unnecessary. Why can’t food just be food anymore?

  2. Truth? There’s more money to be made in “unhealthy” food – generally processed. It is quick, easy, considered cheap and generally garbage.

    Any thing you buy that has more than 5 ingredients is not going to be super healthy. If you can’t pronounce it – best not to eat it. The healthiest food is to buy as local as you can. I’m an advocate of small farmers, local farmers markets – from their ground to my house. I will can, freeze or store my vegetables throughout the seasons and buy organic as much as possible. Although, even organic companies have been known to be not so “organic”.

    Thanks for stopping in!

  3. Food isn’t food anymore because of people. We wouldn’t be where we are in this world if people hadn’t sold out to principle. Giving up and not caring anymore.

    Millions should form a class action suit against Starbucks for feeding them dead bugs. Mainly as an example and to put fear in other companies. Natural? If they made dye out of humans, would you say its natural dye? Bugs are bugs. If companies had no intentions of deceiving people, they would put “Dye made from bugs” on the label. But that won’t happen because they wouldn’t sell their products. This is exactly what is wrong with the world. MONEY. Until we all turn away from consumerism and capitalism, people will continue to get lied to, get ill, get cancer, and DIE. What is more important? Those yummy poisonous foods? Or the healthy ones that could save YOU and YOUR KIDS lives? People need to care more about others than themselves. Selfishness has gotten out of control because of the number one drug in the world. SUGAR. Its a narcotic, but isn’t listed as one.

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